Posted: September 11, 2016 by James Harvey
This morning I commented extensively on the significance that the gospel has been handed down to us in written form. Matthew's gospel begins, "The book of the genealogy of Jesus Christ..." No one has suggested that I was overdoing this significance of "book." But, given that there is always more to say than there is time I thought it would be good to revisit this point.
First, consider whether "book" in that sentence refers to the whole gospel account or the genealogy more narrowly considered. Some scholars take the narrow view, noting that there is not extra-biblical evidence for using a heading like this one to refer to a whole book. Others, noting that this is the same phrased used in the Greek translation of Genesis 2:1, take it as the heading for the entire gospel. So, this is a point that can be debated by those who have a high view of Scripture.
But Old Testament allusions and extra-biblical parallels are not all that we have to go on. We should also consider what makes sense in this gospel itself. The form and content of Matthew's genealogy (which will will consider more next week) uniquely support the rest of his gospel. Not only is there no clear break from the genealogy to the rest of the gospel, but the genealogy itself is carefully presented to support the rest of the gospel of Matthew.
The whole of Matthew's gospel shows how Jesus is the fulfillment of the covenant promises made to Abraham and David. If Jesus is their son, then a story must be told. And so it happens: Matthew gives a thoroughgoing account of Jesus, emphasizing how he fulfilled the messianic promises.
Second, consider the larger point that God has given us revelation in the form of written Scripture. This is not accidental. God did not leave us a video account or an an ancient mosaic that depicted the events of Christ's birth, death and resurrection. Instead, the Holy Spirit works in and through Matthew to explain in detail the meaning of Jesus. We are left with words that are powerful to bring Christ to us and grow us in our relationship with Christ.
Protestant theology does not embrace the doctrine of dictation, which states that the Holy Spirit overrode the human author. The Holy Spirit "carried along" the human author such that what he wrote was what God intended. So Peter writes, " For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit" (2 Peter 1:21). Paul teaches that the Holy Spirit has uniquely provided words that disclose the very thoughts of God to us (1st Corinthians 2:10-13). What a gift we have in the Gospel of Matthew. What a gift the Bible as a whole is to us.
We don't worship the Bible. But we believe that the Bible leads us to worship because the Holy Spirit shows us Jesus in its pages. Matthew emphasizes discipleship community in his gospel. The Bible is at the center our discipleship community with Jesus Christ individually and corporately.
There will be other things in our fellowship too of course. We are not a wooden people that meets only to read Scripture to one another. We share life, do things together, carry each others' burdens and rejoice with one another. But all of this fellowship must be animated by our connection to Christ himself if we are to be a healthy Christian community. If we are not drawing near to God in his word, and making this a priority (Luke 10:38-42) then we will know less of Jesus personally and be less like a community of disciples corporately. We will be less grace filled in our spirit, and less gracious toward one another and our neighbors.
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