God's Unfolding Purpose
It has been good to be reminded this weekend of the Vosian view of Biblical Theology - that God's record of self-revelation is progressive, historical, organic and pious. Vos says on p.8-9 of his 'Biblical Theology':
"The circle of revelation is not a school but a 'covenant'. To speak of revelation as an 'education' of humanity is a rationalistic and utterly unscriptural way of speaking. All that God disclosed of Himself has come in response to the practical religious needs of His people as these emerged in the course of history."
This "goal of biblical theology" is further enlarged upon by Sinclair Ferguson in his paper 'What is Biblical Theology?' on pp.443-446 of his recent anthology entitled 'Some Pastors and Teachers'. Let me put his three headings before you to stoke the flame of piety:
1. The knowledge of God at the heart of biblical theology is our greatest privilege:
Our natural boasting instinct, he says, indicates we were made to be worshiping creatures, but to boast in self or stuff, turns the truth of divine devotion into error and deception. Knowing the Lord, therefore "is what we were created for" and the goal of all theological thinking," (Jer. 9.23-24; 1 Cor 1.31).
That drives me to the conclusion that when we are doing biblical theology we should have a Bible in one hand and a Psalter (two Bibles if you must) in the other - the goal of theology is doxology! Perhaps this is why the Psalms are so full of the history of God's organic, historic, progressive, piety-stimulating acts and accounts (or as Vos might phrase it predictive pre-accounts, acts, and interpretative post-accounts).
2. The knowledge of God at the heart of biblical theology is covenantally grounded:
The entire biblical record, and thus all knowledge of God, is "always" he says "covenantally grounded." God's federal bond with His people is at the core and heart of the Lord's unfolding, redeeming, purpose. If covenant brings forgiveness, pardon, it is always subsidiary to an even more ultimate purpose, namely the saving knowledge of God, Jeremiah 31.34,
"That they shall all know Me, from the least of them to the greatest."
That does not mean, importantly, that Old Testament saints were deprived of saving knowledge of the LORD. It just indicates that the means and content of knowledge in the Old and New Testament periods differ: instead of dim daybreak knowledge through a range of mediators in the Old, we have the full noontide light of knowledge in the person, work and offices of the face of Jesus Christ in the New. Knowledge of God is, therefore, the 'epicentral'covenantal blessing. As Ferguson puts it:
'While there is an epochal advance in the character of this covenantal knowledge of God, central to both dispensations of the covenant relationship (whatever the medium) is the common theme knowing God,'p.445.
3. The knowledge of God in biblical theology focuses on salvation in Christ.
This third point extends the second a little further. In light of our Saviour's own words, in Matthew 11.25-30, we learn that "the content of revelation and salvation" is implicitly Trinitarian but also, particularly at this juncture, explicitly "knowing the Father through the Son". Ferguson asserts boldly:
'Knowledge of God is not additional to salvation: it is the core of salvation,'p.446.
Forgiveness, justification, eternal life and the like, while mind-blowing in themselves, are just the aperitif to the main course of God's redemptive goal for His people through their Mediator Jesus. Knowing God is not just "a kind of theological desert for people who like their Christianity to be intellectually orientated." It is salvation itself (Jer 24.7). John and Peter both make this strikingly similar point (Jn 17.3; 1 Cor 1.21). This glorious goal of the saving knowledge of God is the outcome of steadily gazing, by Word and Spirit, upon the Father's face unveiled in the radiant beauty of Jesus Christ (2 Cor 4.6) - the gaze is sure to get stronger and the glory must grow greater (1 Cor 13.12), as Paul says:
"For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known."
Will you remember God's Unfolding Purpose as you read, teach, preach, pray, share, speak, sing and testify:
"Let Him who boasts boast ...that he ...knows Me!"