Reformed theology is often thought to consist chiefly about the discussion of Calvinism, the authority of Scripture, the Sovereignty of God over all things etc. Yet, the recent explosion of Biblical Theology and in particular Christ-centered Biblical Theology forces us to look at Biblical Theology from a Reformed perspective. I want to do this by focusing on the Supremacy of Jesus Christ. The problem is, where to start, the volume of the books is written of Him. I want to walk through the opening verses of Hebrews. To point out Jesus’ supremacy and centricity in God’s revelation and redemptive history. First, Hebrews begins with the revelatory role of Christ:
Hebrews 1:1–3 1 God, after He spoke long ago to the fathers in the prophets in many portions and in many ways, 2 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. 3 And He is the radiance of His glory and the exact representation of His nature, and upholds all things by the word of His power. When He had made purification of sins, He sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high,
However, the words of Jesus like the deeds of Jesus were not spoken in a vacuum. They stemmed from a long line of prophets who prepared the way for Jesus (Acts 3.18). This was God’s initiative, “He spoke long ago to the fathers in the prophets in many portions and in many ways” (1.1). The first thing we need to stress is the continuity of the message that ties the entire bible together. It is the same God, the same level of inspiration, the same basic message of salvation. The difference of course is one of clarity or quantity not quality. The same quality exists in all that God reveals but that does not take away from the fact that God has revealed more in His Son than in previous times (1 Pet. 1.12). This is why the author makes a reference to the temporal aspect of God’s revelatory work, “long ago.” The NT was written hundreds of years after a period of revelatory silence known as the inter-testamental period between Malachi and Matthew. In Christ, God breaks His silence once again for a final time (cf. Mk. 1.15).
The reference to the “fathers” has been defined by some commentators as referring to all of the OT people not simply the Patriarchs (cf. 1 Cor. 10.1; Mt. 23.32; Lk. 1.55). The “prophets” are also a general way of referring to those who were sent by God to convey His message oral or written. Elijah was a prophet, but to our knowledge did not write any of the Old Testament. The word of the Lord given to “the fathers in the prophets” was revealed through piecemeal, that is, through bits and pieces of revelation without revealing the fullness of God’s purpose which in large measure was in ages past hidden in God (Eph. 3.9). What the “fathers” received was promise. What Jesus revealed to the apostles and the early church was fulfillment (2 Cor. 1.20). Thus, when the author refers to the “long ago” period of time he is thinking eschatologically so that the comparison is one of two periods of time, “long ago” and “in these last days” (1.2a). This is the nature of redemptive-historical revelation. God is progressively revealing more and more, “in many portions” (Lit. in many parts) and “in many ways” until the final picture is given through Jesus Christ in the last days. Peter O’Brien says:
“… it [OT revelation] would presumably include God’s address in mighty works of mercy and judgment, the meaning and purpose of which he made known through his prophets; his word in storm and thunder to Moses (Exod. 19:17–25; Deut. 5:22–27; to which allusion is made in Heb. 12:18–24); the still small voice to Elijah (1 Kings 19:12); along with his speaking through priest and prophet, sage and singer.” (O’Brien, Hebrews; 49).
We should not conclude from this that this was the first time God spoke through His Son. There are many Christophonies and appearances of Christ in the OT, which were of a revelatory nature (e.g. Gen. 18.17-19). Furthermore, Peter also helps us to think about the Trinitarian nature of OT revelation and inspiration. In a parallel passage Peter points out that it was actually the Spirit of Jesus who was revealing things to the prophets:
1 Peter 1:10–11 10 As to this salvation, the prophets who prophesied of the grace that would come to you made careful searches and inquiries, 11 seeking to know what person or time the Spirit of Christ within them was indicating as He predicted the sufferings of Christ and the glories to follow.
As much revelation as was given to the “fathers” through the “prophets” God’s revelation was not exhausted. This was by design of course, another evidence that Scripture has a Christological focus and goal. From the very beginning of time it was God’s aim to foreshadow and predict Jesus’ sufferings and subsequent glories (1 Pet. 1.10-11), to hold us under a tutor until the promised Seed would come (cf. Gal. 3.19), to point His people to types and shadows until the reality and the substance of those things would materialize (Col. 2.16-17), and to predict the suffering of Christ until all was fulfilled (Lk. 24.27). Scripture moves upward to the cross until at last we can see the shadow of the cross spanning all of redemptive history all the way back to first gospel promise in Genesis (e.g. Gen. 3.15). The partial nature of what the “fathers” had in the OT opens the way for the fullness that Jesus brings in the NT.
The opening words in Hebrews shows us several important and practical things about how we read Scripture.
The Divine Authorship Of Scripture
Seeing that Scripture is written in piecemeal form, we must understand no one human author of Scripture provides us with the whole counsel of God. Every human author is inspired to an extent, that is, restricted to what they wrote. But Scripture tells us that all Scripture is inspired of God, lit. breathed out by God. God is the Author behind the authors. That being said, we must always bring theological considerations to the table from the entirety of Scripture to know what purpose each book and passage plays in God’s overall redemptive purpose. This purpose presupposes that we know what it is. This leads us to the design of Scripture.
The Design Of Scripture
One of the reasons I chose Hebrews to draw the redemptive supremacy of Jesus Christ out is because it shows us the Christological focus and purpose of Scripture. What Hebrews teaches us is that Jesus does not come in as a surprise to previous revelation but as the climax and if the climax of Scripture then the focal point to which all of Scripture focuses and looks forward to in an inherent, intentional, and intrinsic fashion. Christ is not in the OT through allegory, revisionism, apostolic re-imagination, or through deconstructing the Bible so that we can accommodate Jesus into it through fanciful reconstruction. He is there by divine, inspired design.
The Diversity And Unity Of Scripture
While some interpreters focus on the diversity of Scripture by focusing on original author and his background and audience. Scripture is finally organically constructed. Every part of Scripture fits with every other part of Scripture. But this interconnection is not simply to display God’s wisdom and omniscience but in order to manifest His redemptive purposes in Christ. Thus, every part of Holy Scripture contributes organically to the overall picture of God’s salvation-history climactically fulfilled in Christ; which is precisely what Hebrews is demonstrating. The wonder is Scripture was designed with this in mind from Gen. 1.1.
Emilio Ramos is the preaching pastor of Heritage Grace Community Church. Pastor Emilio is committed to the expository and exegetical teaching of the Word of God. Emilio is also the author of Convert, From Adam to Christ and the founder of redgracemedia.com- a media ministry devoted to the glory of God’s redemptive grace through Jesus Christ. He and his wife Trisha live in Dallas, TX.