Goldsworthy: “the history of the word…climaxes in the word becoming flesh”

“It is clear from the New Testament that the primary means by which the church grew was through the preaching of the gospel. The apostle Paul, who wrote to the Corinthians that he was determined to know nothing among them but Christ and him crucified, expressed it simply: “we proclaim Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles” (1 Cor. 1:23; 2:2).

“The act of proclaiming, or preaching, was not the giving of opinions or of reinterpreting old religious traditions in new and creative ways. It was proclaiming the word of God. Whatever the form of the proclamation, the content was the gospel of Jesus, and it was by this means alone that people were added to the church. “Faith comes through what is heard, and what is heard comes through the word of Christ” (Rom. 10:17). We note to begin with that the word of God now attaches to both Jesus and to the testimony about Jesus. It is the latter that extends to-apply to the final canon of this testimony, so that we rightly refer to the Bible as the word of God.

“…the soundest methodological starting point for doing theology is the gospel since the person of Jesus is set forth as the final and fullest expression of God’s revelation of his kingdom. Jesus is the goal and fulfillment of the whole Old Testament, and, as the embodiment of the truth of God, he is the interpretative key to the Bible.

“Another reason for beginning with Jesus Christ is that our encounter with him is where our faith journey begins. When we are converted to Christ everything changes for us, including our view of the Bible. Whereas we may previously have regarded it as a fallible, human book, full of contradictions and reasons for not believing, we now see it as God’s word of truth through which we gain a grasp on reality, a perspective that is totally new and comprehensive.

“…all biblical texts testify in some way to Jesus Christ. This makes him the center of biblical revelation and the fixed reference point for understanding everything else in the Bible. Furthermore, as Paul reminds us in Romans 1:16, the gospel is the power of God for salvation for everyone who believes. As we develop a biblical understanding of salvation we recognize that it involves the whole process by which God brings us out of our sinful darkness into the light of Christ, conforms us into his image, and, on the last day, perfects us in his presence for eternity.

“What is the role of preaching in this grand plan of salvation? In starting with Jesus as we seek to develop a biblical theology of preaching, we note some key assertions. For example, in John 1:1-14 and 14:6, he is the very Word of God that has become flesh and that is the embodiment of truth. Jesus did not come merely to tell us the truth; he is the truth. The implications of these statements for hermeneutics and biblical theology are enormous. Unless we want to maintain that there are two words of God, two different messages, then the very closest relationship is established between Jesus Christ and the Bible. They are not identical, for one is God come in the flesh whom we worship as God; the other is an inspired book that is not God and that we do not worship.

“The prologue to John’s Gospel reminds us that the divine communication by which the worlds were made is the same word that has taken human flesh in order to dwell among us. This passage alone is sufficient to send us back to the beginning of creation to examine the way the creative word has worked until now. John is telling us that there is a history of the word that is part of salvation history, and this climaxes in the event he describes in v. 14 as the word becoming flesh and tabernacling among us.

“In making the comparison between Moses and Jesus, John does not detract from the ministry of Moses but links it to the greater word of God that brings grace and truth. In describing the incarnation of Jesus as a “tabernacling,” John deliberately links the incarnation to the dwelling of God among his people in the tabernacle as recorded in the Old Testament.

“This is confirmed by the way he moves very quickly to incorporate the account of the cleansing of the temple in chapter 2. Here the temple of Herod is but a symbol of the true temple that has come with Jesus. Jesus’ reference to the destruction of the temple is clearly a reference to his own death, for his claim to rebuild it in three days is interpreted by John as a reference to the resurrection.

“The effect of John’s treatment of the logos in this prologue passage is to place the incarnation of the living Word, Jesus, firmly in the context of salvation history in Israel, and to extend the line of this holy history back to the creation and behind that to the preexistence of Christ as the eternal Word of God.

“…The word of God by which all things were created is the word that establishes a covenant with a people being redeemed, and that finally bursts into our world as the God-man, Immanuel… John begins his Gospel by recalling the first words of the book of Genesis, but in so doing he identifies the word of God by which creation was effected as the same word that became flesh.”

– Graeme Goldsworthy, “Preaching the Whole Bible as Christian Scripture”, pp. 32-35

Peter serves as a pastor-teacher, at home and abroad, resourcing gospel-centred communities.

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