jesus

Repentance From Dead Works: 3 – Don’t Forget Good Works Are Dead Works


Suggested Pre-Reading: Repentance From Dead Works 2


We have been looking at the concept of repenting from dead works.  First, we saw how some in the early church believed circumcision was a good work necessary for salvation – an idea that was put to rest by the apostles, who made it clear that faith in Christ’s death and resurrection was sufficient. Then, we saw how the apostles still supported the performance of good works by Christians. Although the works did not contribute to salvation, they were necessary by-products of salvation, since the power to perform good works comes from the Holy Spirit.

We will conclude our examination of repenting from dead works by reiterating the main point: good works are dead works. Over the course of the Christian life the temptation will arise, one way or another, to doubt the gospel and think that our works contribute to our righteous standing before God. Unlike the early church, we will not be tempted to add circumcision to the gospel, but we will be tempted to add something.  In our day various Christian individuals or groups have been tempted to add the following to the gospel:

  • Speaking in tongues.
  • Performing penance.
  • Observing the Jewish feasts.
  • Saying “Yeshua” instead of “Jesus”.
  • Believing in the five points of Calvinism.
  • Not believing in the five points of Calvinism.
  • Being baptized.
  • Only reading the 1611 King James Bible.
  • Participating in social justice.

Whenever the temptation to doubt the sufficiency of the cross of Christ arises, we can follow the example of our Lord, who when facing satanic temptation in the wilderness after forty days of fasting, responded with the truth of the Word of God.  The four passages below show without a doubt that good works are dead works, and that the gospel is truly a gift from God, not something we earn or contribute to in any way.

I do not nullify the grace of God, for if righteousness comes through the Law, then Christ died needlessly. (Galatians 2: 21)

Therefore they said to Him, “What shall we do, so that we may work the works of God?” Jesus answered and said to them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He has sent.” (John 6: 28 – 29)

Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter. Many will say to Me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?’ And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness.’ (Matthew 7: 21 – 23)

And He also told this parable to some people who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and viewed others with contempt: “Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood and was praying this to himself: ‘God, I thank You that I am not like other people: swindlers, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I pay tithes of all that I get.’ But the tax collector, standing some distance away, was even unwilling to lift up his eyes to heaven, but was beating his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, the sinner!’ I tell you, this man went to his house justified rather than the other; for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but he who humbles himself will be exalted.” (Luke 18: 9 – 14)

Let us not be considered lawless by God, by adding our dead works to the gospel of Jesus Christ. Let us be considered righteous through faith, by believing in Him (Jesus) whom He (God the Father) has sent.

Repentance From Dead Works: 1 – Good Works Are Dead Works

In our study of the Eternal Judgment, we discussed how neither good works nor bad works contribute to our salvation.  A bad work condemns us.  A good work cannot erase the condemnation incurred.  Therefore, both are dead works.  But there is more to learn about the concept of a dead work. Specifically, there was a unique tension felt by the first Jewish Christians regarding this topic, and it is helpful to us to understand it, so that we do not repeat errors of the past.

For over a millennium, God’s people had as their rule of faith the Law of Moses. Within the Law were numerous divine commands, such as male circumcision and temple sacrifices.  When Christ came and inaugurated the New Covenant, circumcision and temple sacrifices were no longer needed.  But the Old Covenant mindset of some of the Jewish Christians did not change overnight, and there was tension caused by those who believed that the Law of Moses still had to be kept, if not in whole, then in part.  This issue was dealt with by the Jerusalem council.

Some men came down from Judea and began teaching the brethren, “Unless you are circumcised according to the custom of Moses, you cannot be saved.”  And when Paul and Barnabas had great dissension and debate with them, the brethren determined that Paul and Barnabas and some others of them should go up to Jerusalem to the apostles and elders concerning this issue.  (Acts 15: 1 – 2)

These Jewish Christians wanted to take what was formerly a good work in the Mosaic Covenant and add it to the New Covenant.  In their mind the salvation equation was

Christ + Circumcision = Righteousness Before God

The Jerusalem council, specifically Peter and James, responded to the matter based on their authority as apostles of Jesus, and their intricate knowledge of His gospel.  Peter said:

But we believe that we are saved through the grace of the Lord Jesus, in the same way as they also are.  (Acts 15: 11)

James said:

Brethren, listen to me.  Simeon has related how God first concerned Himself about taking from among the Gentiles a people for His name.  With this the words of the Prophets agree, just as it is written, “After these things I will return, and I will rebuild the tabernacle of David which has fallen, and I will rebuild its ruins, and I will restore it, so that the rest of mankind may seek the Lord, and all the Gentiles who are called by My name, says the Lord, who makes these things known from long ago.”  Therefore it is my judgment that we do not trouble those who are turning to God from among the Gentiles, but that we write to them that they abstain from things contaminated by idols and from fornication and from what is strangled and from blood.  (Acts 15: 13 – 20)

God does not require New Covenant members, Jew or Gentile, to circumcise their males for entry into the covenant.  This work, required as part of the Old Covenant, is no longer necessary. But it was hard for the early Jewish converts to let go of things that used to be good, evidenced not only by the need for a discussion in Jerusalem, but by a need for Paul’s letter to the Galatians, which also dealt directly with people who wanted to add circumcision to the gospel.

It was for freedom that Christ set us free; therefore keep standing firm and do not be subject again to a yoke of slavery.  Behold I, Paul, say to you that if you receive circumcision, Christ will be of no benefit to you.  And I testify again to every man who receives circumcision, that he is under obligation to keep the whole Law.  You have been severed from Christ, you who are seeking to be justified by law; you have fallen from grace.  For we through the Spirit, by faith, are waiting for the hope of righteousness.  For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision means anything, but faith working through love.  (Galatians 5: 1 – 6)

Paul here reinforces the gospel-law binary.  Man is either saved through faith in Jesus Christ alone, or by keeping the law alone.  Man cannot be saved through a combination of faith in Christ and performing circumcision.  Circumcision is but one tenet of the Mosaic Law, and if one wanted to add circumcision to the gospel, Paul argued one would necessarily have to add the entire law to the gospel.  But if the law is added to the gospel, it is no longer the gospel.

We should always keep in mind the ruling of the Jerusalem council and the words of Paul to Galatia. Although we may not be tempted to add Old Covenant rites like circumcision to the gospel, we undoubtedly, whether personally in our own hearts or in the church through formal teaching, are tempted to add “good” works to the gospel. We must stand strong and resist the temptation, for as we discussed in the examination of the Eternal Judgment, as well as here and now, good works are dead works.  And if a good work is a dead work, it saves no one. And if it does not have the power to save, it cannot be the gospel of Jesus Christ.

God’s Oracles Center Around Christ: 4 – Summarizing the Centrality of Christ


Suggested Pre-Reading: God’s Oracles Center Around Christ 3


It has crossed my mind that perhaps the cart has been put before the horse. We have discussed how Christ is central to the New Testament, the Old Testament, and the five major covenants of God. But we have not talked a lot about “the Christ”. So herein is a brief summary of the Christ, serving as the conclusion to our study of the principle that God’s oracles center around Him.

The foundation for the Christ is laid when the prophet Nathan gives King David these words from God:

Your house and your kingdom shall endure before Me forever; your throne shall be established forever. (2 Samuel 7: 16)

God promised David an eternal throne. Over the course of time the prophets made it clear that the eternal throne would be occupied not by an endless succession of kings, but by one ultimate king.

…I will raise up for David a righteous Branch; and He will reign as king and act wisely and do justice and righteousness in the land. (Jeremiah 23: 5)

There will be no end to the increase of His government or of peace, on the throne of David and over his kingdom…(Isaiah 9: 7)

But with righteousness He will judge the poor, and decide with fairness for the afflicted of the earth; and He will strike the earth with the rod of His mouth, and with the breath of His lips He will slay the wicked. (Isaiah 11: 4)

My servant David will be king over them, and they will all have one shepherd; and they will walk in My ordinances and keep My statutes and observe them. (Ezekiel 37: 24)

One like a Son of Man was coming, and He came up to the Ancient of Days and was presented before Him. And to Him was given dominion, glory and a kingdom, that all the peoples, nations and men of every language might serve Him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion which will not pass away; and His kingdom is one which will not be destroyed. (Daniel 7: 13 – 14)

Yes, it is He who will build the temple of the LORD, and He who will bear the honor and sit and rule on His throne. Thus, He will be a priest on His throne, and the counsel of peace will be between the two offices. (Zechariah 6: 13)

Because the prophets clearly told of a coming king from the line of David, one might think that the most frequent rabbinic name ascribed to this anticipated man would be “Melek ben David”, meaning King Son of David. But the rabbis did not call Him that; instead, they referred to Him as “Mashiach ben David”, meaning Messiah Son of David. To understand why the rabbis called this man Messiah, one needs to know what Messiah means:

The word Messiah comes from a Hebrew term that means “anointed one.” Its Greek counterpart is Christos, from which the word Christ comes…In Old Testament times, part of the ritual of commissioning a person for a special task was to anoint him with oil. The phrase “anointed” one was applied to a person in such cases.1

In the Old Testament there are many messiahs. Saul was anointed as king of Israel. David was anointed as king of Israel. God anointed the Gentile king Cyrus to allow the Jews to return to Israel. This concept of an anointed one, which had general usage, took on a new specific usage because of the prophecies about the son of David. The son of David was commissioned by God to be a king. He would be a king, not just of Israel, but the entire world. He would bring about a universal utopia, the likes of which this world has never seen. He would teach the world the commands of God. There would be mass conversion to the God of Israel. The accomplishments of this man would be exceeded by no one. Therefore, this person was not “an” anointed one, but “the” anointed one. That is why the rabbis called him Mashiach ben David. That is why we call Him Jesus Christ.

The magnitude of the messianic vision of the prophets makes it easy to conclude that the Christ is at the center of all of God’s oracles. How could a man commissioned to do all of the things the prophets said not be the primary character of God’s story? How could someone who single-handedly ushers in the utopia we all yearn for not be the central figure of the Biblical narrative? We would do well to remember the words of Jesus, Mashiach ben David, spoken to rabbis who, though waiting for Messiah, thought that the laws and commands of God were the central figures of the Biblical narrative:

You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; it is these that testify about Me…John 5: 39

The Bible is about Jesus of Nazareth, the Anointed One. Of this, we can be certain.


1 Nelson’s New Illustrated Bible Dictionary (Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1995)

God’s Oracles Center Around Christ: 3 – The Five Major Covenants Teach the Centrality of Christ


Suggested Pre-Reading: God’s Oracles Center Around Christ: 2


The Bible contains five major covenants, or promises, from God:

Name Details
Noahic Covenant God promised to never again destroy humanity by flood
Abrahamic Covenant God promised to bless all the nations through Abraham
Israelite Covenant God promised to bless Israel if they obeyed His law and to curse them if they didn’t
Davidic Covenant God promised to set one of David’s offspring (the Messiah) on the throne as king forever
New Covenant God promised to usher in the Messianic kingdom and write His law on peoples’ hearts (unlike the Israelite Covenant in which the law was written on stone)

Each of the five covenants has Messianic implications. To put it another way, each of the five main promises of God are best understood in relation to the Messiah and His kingdom. Consider the words of the prophet Ezekiel, which link the fulfillment of the Davidic Covenant to the start of the New (Everlasting) Covenant:

My servant David will be king over them, and they will all have one shepherd; and they will walk in My ordinances and keep My statutes and observe them…David My servant will be their prince forever. I will make a covenant of peace with them; it will be an everlasting covenant with them. (Ezekiel 37: 24 – 26)

The link between the covenants and the Christ was noticed by far more than the prophet Ezekiel. The authors of the New Testament also commented on the five covenants and interpreted them in light of the Messiah:

Covenant New Testament Reference
Noahic For when they maintain this, it escapes their notice that by the word of God the heavens existed long ago and the earth was formed out of water and by water, through which the world at that time was destroyed, being flooded with water. But by His word the present heavens and earth are being reserved for fire, kept for the day of judgment and destruction of ungodly men. (2 Peter 3: 5 – 7)
Abrahamic Therefore, be sure that it is those who are of faith who are sons of Abraham. The Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, preached the gospel beforehand to Abraham, saying, “All the nations will be blessed in you.” So then those who are of faith are blessed with Abraham, the believer. (Galatians 3: 7 – 9)
Israelite Now if perfection was through the Levitical priesthood (for on the basis of it the people received the Law), what further need was there for another priest to arise according to the order of Melchizedek, and not be designated according to the order of Aaron? For when the priesthood is changed, of necessity there takes place a change of law also…For the Law, since it has only a shadow of the good things to come and not the very form of things, can never, by the same sacrifices which they offer continually year by year, make perfect those who draw near. (Hebrews 7: 11 – 12, 10: 1)

Davidic After He had removed him, He raised up David to be their king, concerning whom He also testified and said, “I have found David the son of Jesse, a man after My heart, who will do all My will.’ From the descendants of this man, according to promise, God has brought to Israel a Savior, Jesus…(Acts 13: 22 – 23)

New (Everlasting) For if that first covenant had been faultless, there would have been no occasion sought for a second. For finding fault with them, He says, “Behold, days are coming, says the LORD, when I will effect a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah; not like the covenant which I made with their fathers on the day when I took them by the hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt; for they did not continue in My covenant (Hebrews 8: 7 – 9)

As we can see by these New Testament teachings, each of the covenants relate to Jesus the Messiah in their own particular way. Jesus will judge humanity with fire, akin to how God judged humanity with water in the days of Noah. The nations have been blessed through Abraham because it is the gospel of one of his descendants (Jesus) that has gone out to the world and brought unbelievers into the household of God. The Israelite Covenant demonstrated that humanity by its own power could never achieve righteousness through obedience, and it pointed to the need for a greater covenant in which God supplied everything necessary for salvation – this was fulfilled by Jesus and the New Covenant. Jesus and the New Covenant were also the means by which God fulfilled His promise to David, to provide him an everlasting throne and kingdom.

Just as the New Testament is about Jesus, just as the Old Testament is about Jesus, so too are the five major covenants about Jesus. We should expect this, because it is consistent with what God wants us to know. God wants us to know and believe in Jesus Christ, and He has engineered the whole of Scripture, including His five main covenants, to testify to Jesus and our need for a Savior.

God’s Oracles Center Around Christ: 2 – The Old Testament Implicitly Teaches the Centrality of Christ


Suggested Pre-Reading: God’s Oracles Center Around Christ: 1


It is clear that the New Testament was written to document the words and deeds of Jesus and to declare him to be the Christ. It is not as clear that the Old Testament was written to set the stage for Jesus of Nazareth. On the surface, the Old Testament is an account of the nation of Israel, beginning with God’s creation of Adam and ending with the return of the Jews from the exile. Beneath the surface, the story being told is about a great king who would come from the nation of Israel and rule the world in righteousness.

Although Christians should read the Old Testament and learn how it points to Christ, many do not do so, finding a cover to cover reading intimidating. For those intimidated by the Old Testament, there is a summary of the whole story found in the ninth chapter of Nehemiah. The summary, provided in full at the end of this article, was written after the return of the exiles from Babylon and covers from the beginning of creation to the return of the exiles. If the summary proves to be intimidating, one can focus on the following excerpt, which captures the essence of the Old Testament:

You are just in all that has come upon us;
For You have dealt faithfully, but we have acted wickedly.
For our kings, our leaders, our priests and our fathers have not kept Your law
Or paid attention to Your commandments and Your admonitions with which You have admonished them.
But they, in their own kingdom,
With Your great goodness which You gave them,
With the broad and rich land which You set before them,
Did not serve You or turn from their evil deeds.

Nehemiah 9: 33 – 35

God was very good to Israel, over and over and over. Their response to God’s goodness was sin and a refusal to obey the commandments God gave them. For nearly one thousand years, from Moses to the end of the exile, the Law proved incapable of changing the hearts of the people. The promised blessings of the Mosaic Covenant were not enough to inspire godliness, and the promised curses of the Mosaic Covenant were not enough to prevent sin. Something greater than the Law of Moses was needed, to cause the people to trust and obey God. If the Law of Moses was to remain the primary administration, why not think that Israel would remain in a perpetual state of sin and rebellion and exile?

It is viewing the Old Testament in this way – as a chronicle of Israel’s perpetual disobedience – that enables one to see how the story is dependent upon the Christ. Israel’s inability to obey the covenant of Moses is resolved by the prophetic promise of Jesus and His new covenant. Consider the words of Isaiah, who wrote of a great king from the line of David who would rule in righteousness.

For a child will be born to us, a son will be given to us; and the government will rest on His shoulders; and His name will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace. There will be no end to the increase of His government or of peace, on the throne of David and over his kingdom, to establish it and to uphold it with justice and righteousness from then on and forevermore. (Isaiah 9: 6 – 7)

Consider the words of Jeremiah, prophesying that a new covenant would be made, in which the law of God would be written on the hearts of men, rather than on tablets of stone.

“Behold, days are coming,” declares the LORD, “when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah, not like the covenant which I made with their fathers in the day I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt, My covenant which they broke, although I was a husband to them,” declares the LORD. “But this is the covenant which I will make with the house of Israel after those days,” declares the LORD, “I will put My law within them and on their heart I will write it; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people.” (Jeremiah 31: 31 – 33)

The promise of a savior-king, enacting a covenant in which He by divine power changes the hearts of His people and atones for their sin, is is the exact solution needed for a people who continually proved incapable of obeying the law by their own power. If the prophecies regarding Christ are removed from the Old Testament, the story started in the Old Testament has nowhere to go. For one thousand years the law failed to produce godly people, and unless that law were replaced with something better, there is no reason to think anything would change.

Our conclusion then, in light of all that has been said, must be that Jesus is central to all that is going on in the story of Israel. If by removing Christ from the Old Testament the story has nowhere to go, what other conclusion is there to draw?


Old Testament Summary In Nehemiah 9: 5 – 37

O may Your glorious name be blessed
And exalted above all blessing and praise!

You alone are the LORD.
You have made the heavens,
The heaven of heavens with all their host,
The earth and all that is on it,
The seas and all that is in them.
You give life to all of them
And the heavenly host bows down before You.

You are the LORD God,
Who chose Abram
And brought him out from Ur of the Chaldees,
And gave him the name Abraham.

You found his heart faithful before You,
And made a covenant with him
To give him the land of the Canaanite,
Of the Hittite and the Amorite,
Of the Perizzite, the Jebusite and the Girgashite—
To give it to his descendants.
And You have fulfilled Your promise,
For You are righteous.

You saw the affliction of our fathers in Egypt,
And heard their cry by the Red Sea.

Then You performed signs and wonders against Pharaoh,
Against all his servants and all the people of his land;
For You knew that they acted arrogantly toward them,
And made a name for Yourself as it is this day.

You divided the sea before them,
So they passed through the midst of the sea on dry ground;
And their pursuers You hurled into the depths,
Like a stone into raging waters.

And with a pillar of cloud You led them by day,
And with a pillar of fire by night
To light for them the way
In which they were to go.

Then You came down on Mount Sinai,
And spoke with them from heaven;
You gave them just ordinances and true laws,
Good statutes and commandments.

So You made known to them Your holy sabbath,
And laid down for them commandments, statutes and law,
Through Your servant Moses.

You provided bread from heaven for them for their hunger,
You brought forth water from a rock for them for their thirst,
And You told them to enter in order to possess
The land which You swore to give them.

But they, our fathers, acted arrogantly;
They became stubborn and would not listen to Your commandments.

They refused to listen,
And did not remember Your wondrous deeds which You had performed among them;
So they became stubborn and appointed a leader to return to their slavery in Egypt.
But You are a God of forgiveness,
Gracious and compassionate,
Slow to anger and abounding in lovingkindness;
And You did not forsake them.

Even when they made for themselves
A calf of molten metal
And said, ‘This is your God
Who brought you up from Egypt,’
And committed great blasphemies,

You, in Your great compassion,
Did not forsake them in the wilderness;
The pillar of cloud did not leave them by day,
To guide them on their way,
Nor the pillar of fire by night, to light for them the way in which they were to go.

You gave Your good Spirit to instruct them,
Your manna You did not withhold from their mouth,
And You gave them water for their thirst.

Indeed, forty years You provided for them in the wilderness and they were not in want;
Their clothes did not wear out, nor did their feet swell.

You also gave them kingdoms and peoples,
And allotted them to them as a boundary.
They took possession of the land of Sihon the king of Heshbon
And the land of Og the king of Bashan.

You made their sons numerous as the stars of heaven,
And You brought them into the land
Which You had told their fathers to enter and possess.

So their sons entered and possessed the land.
And You subdued before them the inhabitants of the land, the Canaanites,
And You gave them into their hand, with their kings and the peoples of the land,
To do with them as they desired.

They captured fortified cities and a fertile land.
They took possession of houses full of every good thing,
Hewn cisterns, vineyards, olive groves,
Fruit trees in abundance.
So they ate, were filled and grew fat,
And reveled in Your great goodness.

But they became disobedient and rebelled against You,
And cast Your law behind their backs
And killed Your prophets who had admonished them
So that they might return to You,
And they committed great blasphemies.

Therefore You delivered them into the hand of their oppressors who oppressed them,
But when they cried to You in the time of their distress,
You heard from heaven, and according to Your great compassion
You gave them deliverers who delivered them from the hand of their oppressors.

But as soon as they had rest, they did evil again before You;
Therefore You abandoned them to the hand of their enemies, so that they ruled over them.
When they cried again to You, You heard from heaven,
And many times You rescued them according to Your compassion,

And admonished them in order to turn them back to Your law.
Yet they acted arrogantly and did not listen to Your commandments but sinned against Your ordinances,
By which if a man observes them he shall live.
And they turned a stubborn shoulder and stiffened their neck, and would not listen.

However, You bore with them for many years,
And admonished them by Your Spirit through Your prophets,
Yet they would not give ear.
Therefore You gave them into the hand of the peoples of the lands.

Nevertheless, in Your great compassion You did not make an end of them or forsake them,
For You are a gracious and compassionate God.

Now therefore, our God, the great, the mighty, and the awesome God, who keeps covenant and lovingkindness,
Do not let all the hardship seem insignificant before You,
Which has come upon us, our kings, our princes, our priests, our prophets, our fathers and on all Your people,
From the days of the kings of Assyria to this day.

However, You are just in all that has come upon us;
For You have dealt faithfully, but we have acted wickedly.

For our kings, our leaders, our priests and our fathers have not kept Your law
Or paid attention to Your commandments and Your admonitions with which You have admonished them.

But they, in their own kingdom,
With Your great goodness which You gave them,
With the broad and rich land which You set before them,
Did not serve You or turn from their evil deeds.

Behold, we are slaves today,
And as to the land which You gave to our fathers to eat of its fruit and its bounty,
Behold, we are slaves in it.

Its abundant produce is for the kings
Whom You have set over us because of our sins;
They also rule over our bodies
And over our cattle as they please,
So we are in great distress.

God’s Oracles Center Around Christ: 1 – The New Testament Explicitly References The Centrality of Christ

The Christian ought to believe that God’s oracles center around Christ because Jesus, the Christ, explicitly said that very thing. In an encounter with the Pharisees, recorded by the disciple John, Jesus dispelled the notion that the primary function of Scripture is to teach the law of God so that one could be righteous through holy living.

You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; it is these that testify about Me…For if you believed Moses, you would believe Me, for he wrote about Me. (John 5: 39, 46)

After His resurrection from the dead, Jesus made another explicit statement about the Christ-centered message of Scripture, during a conversation with His disciples.

Now He said to them, “These are My words which I spoke to you while I was still with you, that all things which are written about Me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled.” Then He opened their minds to understand the Scriptures, and He said to them, “Thus it is written, that the Christ would suffer and rise again from the dead the third day, and that repentance for forgiveness of sins would be proclaimed in His name to all the nations, beginning from Jerusalem.” (Luke 24: 44 – 47)

The author of Hebrews told us that God’s oracles climaxed with the coming of Christ.

God, after He spoke long ago to the fathers in the prophets in many portions and in many ways, in these last days has spoken to us in His Son, whom He appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the world. (Hebrews 1: 1 – 2)

Prior to Jesus, God spoke to Israel through a series of prophets, and the prophets looked ahead to the coming of the Christ. When Jesus came, the prophets ceased, for the Messiah had been revealed, and their message was no longer needed. All that was needed was for the words and deeds of the Messiah to be written down for posterity, and that has happened thanks to the authors of the New Testament.

Believing that Jesus is the main focus of the Bible is key to accurately reading and comprehending the Bible. One of the easiest things to do is to forget that the book is primarily about Jesus. When one does this, when one forgets, the book often becomes about the reader. The reader goes to Scripture to extract principles for living a better life, just like the Pharisees did in Jesus’ day. This narcissistic reading can even happen when reading about Jesus – instead of focusing on the glory of Jesus and giving Him due praise, the reader instead studies the words and deeds of Christ, merely so they can try to mimic those qualities in their own life and become “a better person”.

Thankfully, the Holy Spirit gave us explicit references in Scripture, which prove the primacy of Christ, to help guard our hearts and minds as we approach God’s holy word. Since God desires His people to worship Him in spirit and in truth, we must read Scripture, the revealed word of God, accurately. As we increase in our comprehension of the Biblical narrative, and as we increase in our comprehension of our own sinful nature, we will learn that it is impossible to please God through our living of His law. It is only because of what Christ has done on our behalf, by dealing with our sin, that we can be pleasing to God. The redemption of mankind through the sacrificial death of Jesus of Nazareth is what the oracles of God all point to, in one way or another. The apostle Paul summarizes this great work well:

He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him. (2 Corinthians 5: 21)

To rightly understand the gospel of grace, and not turn it into a gospel of works, one must understand that Jesus stands in the center of all of God’s revealed truths.