Friday, September 26, 2008

Ramblings spurred by a comment

I wrote this kind of “on the spot” in reference to a comment by Russ of Satire and Theology on my last post. I was simply going to comment back to him, but as I started, and as is usual with me :-), I just kept going…and going…and going…! My comment back to him spurred some other thoughts that were somewhat related; and rather than attempting to “redo” a proper comment to him or “redo” this into a more concise and understandable post (which would be better, but would take a while), I thought I would just leave it as is. I know it may seem a little disjointed at times and in places, and I know that I’ve jumped right into issues relating to the Sermon on the Mount without laying a proper foundation for what I’m talking about; but you’ll just have to ask questions if you want better clarity. I’m only assuming that most of the spelling mistakes have been automatically corrected; and I’m hoping that the jumbled mess of thought that was in my mind has come out somewhat coherent and understandable. Good Luck!! :-)

I think it does. I think the “weak” Christian and the “strong” Christian (in this context) both have a fundamental misunderstanding with regard to “commandment” obligation. I think they both misunderstand their relation to “law”, which a proper understanding of the Sermon on the Mount, I believe, would rectify.

The issue with Jesus’ confrontation with the Jews in The Sermon speaks to their misunderstanding of “obligation”. They knew (rightly) that they were under obligation to the Law of Moses, but they didn’t comprehend the purpose of the Law and what their obligation consisted of. They conditioned themselves to “follow the rules”, so-to-speak, without reference to what the Law really meant. They rightly recognized the obligation of “purity” and felt that by their meticulous keeping of “commandments” they were in obedience and therefore “pure in heart” (and also, therefore, citizens of the Kingdom).

But “purity of heart”, as Jesus explains, is not “keeping commandments”, as such, but recognizing the One of whom the Law speaks. In other words, the Sermon on the Mount (in general) and “purity of heart” (specifically) really have nothing to do with keeping commandments; but it has everything to do with keeping the Law. Jesus is saying that obligation to the Law is to recognize that it is fulfilled in Him and to, therefore, come to Him by faith.

The people thought then, as people (and Christians) still think today, that the Law has to do with them (or us); when in reality, as Jesus and the NT writers tell us, the Law has to do with Him! We don’t “keep the Law” by obeying rules and regulations; we “keep” it by believing it (believing Moses) and affirming with it that it is fulfilled in Jesus of Nazareth. We recognize it as speaking of the One to come, and when He arrives we “obey” it by coming to Him.

The Law (which is to say totality of the Scripture as well as the Law of Moses) prophesied of the King and His Kingdom. From the very beginning, when we read of the promise of the Seed of the woman, this was the purpose of God. So to “obey” the Law is to recognize God’s purpose in it and to believe Him when that promise arrives. And the King has arrived! We "obey" the Law when we agree with the Scripture and we come to Him by faith! So... “purity of heart” is the condition of the person who, in obedience to the Law, comes to the King for entrance into His Kingdom. This is what Jesus is saying.

So... getting back to your original comment (you probably thought I’d never return, did you?:-); I think that the “weak” Christian and the “strong” Christian in this context are still viewing the Law as “commandment” rather than “relationship”. To the one, he is still constrained to “commandment thinking” in his behavior to “follow rules”, so-to-speak; for the other, he is betraying a “commandment mind-set” in his “freedom” from rules and regulations. Both examples are missing the “constraint” and “freedom” that is Christ. The constraint and freedom provided by love.

As Christians, we are not under obligation to the Law but to Christ who has fulfilled the Law. And this obligation to Christ is the obligation of Love. The “weak” Christian and the “strong” Christian should be directed and constrained by love, not by obligation to commands or even freedom from commands. But this Love is an “other-worldly” reality that the “natural man” can’t comprehend or practice. This Love is a product of the New Creation in Christ. God is love. Only those who have the Spirit residing in them are now capable of expressing Biblical Love.

And this issue of love ties us back to the Sermon on the Mount as Jesus declares that the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand. This Kingdom that Jesus brought with Him is the promised Kingdom of the Scripture. And the Scripture speaks of this Kingdom as a Kingdom of Renewal, the Kingdom of the New Creation. The citizens of this Kingdom must partake of the New Creation; they themselves must be renewed to enter into it. This renewal comes only in connection with Christ, the King. We must be “born again”; we must be “born of the Spirit”; we must have the life of God in us (through the presence of the Spirit) in order to enter the Kingdom.

Isn’t this what Jesus said? He said that a person must have a righteousness that surpasses that of the Scribes and Pharisees (who were notoriously meticulous in the “law-keeping”) to enter the Kingdom of Heaven. That is a pretty strong “ethic”. But Jesus’ examples all speak to the fact that no one has this righteousness—it’s impossible for the “natural” man. The ethic of the Kingdom is the ethic of Jesus' surpassing righteousness and the reality of the New Creation (the Kingdom that He brings) as it pertains to human beings. In other words, the ethic of the Kingdom is the same ethic of the Law—LOVE. And this love (as with the Kingdom itself) is "unavailable to the old Adamic order of things and those who continue to inhabit it" (KC notes). People must be transferred out of this world (spiritually speaking, of course) and into the New Creation to be capable of Love. And this only happens when a person is “joined” by the Spirit to Christ--who is Love incarnate.

Love is the great “ethic” that defines the Kingdom and, therefore, our lives as Christians—not perfectly, of course, since we’re not yet in our perfected state. But as the Spirit continues to conform us (back) into the image and likeness of Christ (the image we “lost” in The Fall--Hughes), our lives will “naturally” manifest the life of Love (which is to say, the Life of Christ). As Jesus explains to the people: physical, ethnic descent from Abraham doesn’t matter; sincerity in trying to keep commandments doesn’t matter; what matters is the New Creation—the New Birth, the presence of the Spirit, the life of God. Apart from this “renewal”, the Kingdom of God and the “love” that defines it is inaccessible.

Love governs our behavior…not commandment (for or against).

Thursday, September 25, 2008

More Sermon on the Mount

As I continue to prepare for a couple of services coming up at SGCC, I thought I'd link a few more of our pastor's Sermon Notes from our present series on The Sermon on the Mount. Below each link is his overview of the message and you can access the audio of the sermon by clicking the SGCC link in the sidebar and looking for the Sermon on the Mount series.

I'll continue with my Hughes series shortly. The next two posts will deal with chapters two and three of his book, "The True Image: The Origin and Destiny of Man in Christ". These chapters deal with whether or not there is a "bodily aspect" to the Image and then whether or not man and the Divine Image are identical. Until then, enjoy more of our pastor's Sermon notes on The Sermon on the Mount.

Part 6: Hungering and Thirsting for Righteousness

This message continues the examination of Jesus' Beatitudes. It considers the fourth Beatitude, first as it fits within and contributes to the Beatitudes as a whole, but also to the broader context of the Sermon on the Mount. Most importantly it seeks to understand this Beatitude (as all of them) in terms of the larger salvation-historical context of Jesus' teaching and ministry. Sadly, the tendency for Christians (as much as non-Christians) is to read and interpret the Beatitudes through "natural" eyes, with the result that they become simply more performance "benchmarks" by which a person can measure himself and determine his standing with God. Perceived in natural terms, all people - not merely Christians - recognize and openly acknowledge the goodness and propriety of the qualities set out in the Beatitudes. The problem is that Jesus was speaking of human qualities that transcend the conceptual capability (let alone the performance capability) of man in his fallen state. Far from providing moral and ethical definition to assist people in their pursuit of personal righteousness (Christians commonly regard the Beatitudes as a means for authenticating their conversion and assisting their sanctification), Jesus was declaring that His kingdom demands a divinely-wrought new creation - not a new conviction, new commitment, or new discipline of life (John 3:1-3).

Part 7: Mercy

The fifth Beatitude introduces mercy as characteristic of the subjects of the kingdom of heaven. Christians and non-Christians alike recognize that Christ's people are to be merciful, but few seem to understand the true nature and function of Christian mercy. This message examines mercy from a biblical standpoint, showing that it is an inward disposition and that merciful deeds are merely mercy's fruit. Moreover, the acts that can be legitimately regarded as merciful are directed toward the recipient's spiritual well-being and not simply the alleviation of physical and temporal needs.

Part 8: Purity of Heart

Whatever the nuances of understanding, inward purity is a core ethic in all religions and a virtue lauded in all cultures. This reinforces the truth that, though corrupted in his estrangement from God, fallen man yet bears the divine image and, therefore, retains his innate sense of righteousness. At the same time, estrangement from the One in whose image they were created leaves people unable to rightly discern their true selves. In turn, the absence of accurate self-knowledge (and the inability to obtain it), results in a distorted perception of purity. If a person cannot discern or discover his true humanness, how can he know what it means for his humanness to be free of all pollution and imperfection? The result is that "purity of heart" is universally reduced to conformity to a collection of moral and ethical (and, in some instances, religious) obligations. In effect, this "purity" attained through self-reform (religious or otherwise) amounts to "cleaning the outside of the cup and dish" (Mat. 23:25). Tragically, the damning delusion that is pseudo-purity permeates much of professing Christianity; Jesus' confrontation of it with His Jewish contemporaries is equally His confrontation of it in the Church today.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Hughes on "The Meaning of Creation in the Image of God"

Before I begin with Hughes, for those of you who are interested here are the notes for parts three, four, and five of our sermon series on The Sermon on the Mount with the Pastor's overview:

Part Three:

This message concludes the introduction to the Sermon on the Mount by considering the Bible's doctrine of the Kingdom of God. The Sermon on the Mount was the first and longest of Jesus' discourses, and so it is appropriate that Matthew introduced Jesus' public ministry with it. In this discourse Jesus presented the principles and features of His kingdom - the long-promised kingdom that, now at last, was being inaugurated in connection with His presence and impending work of redemption. Most importantly, Jesus intended His proclamation to confront and correct Israel's flawed conception of the Kingdom of God that was the product of historical circumstances and traditional Jewish interpretation of the Scripture. This misunderstanding of the Old Testament's doctrine of kingdom had left Israel on the verge of missing her Messiah and His kingdom and Jesus sought to rectify that. Jewish scholarship had misconstrued God's kingdom, and so it is today. If Christians are to rightly understand Jesus' teaching in the Sermon on the Mount, they must first understand the Bible's doctrine of the kingdom as progressively revealed and developed in the salvation history leading up to Christ's coming. In the Jews' case, failure to discern Jesus's kingdom led them to regard Him as a false teacher who was setting aside the Law and Prophets (5:17); in the case of Christians, this failure results in many within the Church reducing Jesus' instruction to a moral and ethical "cookbook" providing the behavioral recipe for people who seek to enter His heavenly kingdom. Such individuals will miss the true Kingdom of God just as surely as the sons of Israel did.

Part Four:

This message lays the contextual and salvation-historical foundation for interpreting the Beatitudes. In that regard, it considers first and foremost the intent and significance of Jesus' gospel of the kingdom for the sons of Israel. Their history and theological tradition had resulted in an Israelite doctrine of the kingdom that was fatally flawed and would cause them to miss the day of their visitation. Thus Jesus' proclamation of the gospel of the kingdom amounted to a call to repentance; like John before Him, He challenged Israel to rethink the nature of God's kingdom and their own relation to it. The Sermon on the Mount plays a crucial role in Jesus' overall witness to the "in-breaking" of the promised kingdom and, with it, the introduction of the new age of the new creation. It is only when viewed from that vantage point that its true meaning for the Church can be discerned.

Part Five:

This message provides a general introduction to the Beatitudes and examines the first three of them. Most crucial to understanding the Beatitudes is recognizing that Jesus was confronting and refuting His audience's ingrained conception of the kingdom as an idealized earthly, national and political structure. The Jews were poised to miss Jesus' kingdom because of this false conception, and the Sermon on the Mount was the Lord's most intricate and extended attempt to show them that His kingdom is other-worldly and not natural. It is the "kingdom of heaven" - the realm of the new creation. So the Beatitudes express fundamental qualities of the human new creation; they express who man is when he is renewed "according to the image of the One who created him" (Col. 3:9-10). And precisely because Jesus is the Last Adam - that is, the source and substance of the new humanity of the new creation, the Beatitudes must be understood as having their first and foundational referent in Him. Jesus is the "beatific man" such that all other human beings find their own "beatific" status only through personal union with Him by His Spirit.

And now more from Philip E. Hughes.

Hughes begins his book, “The True Image: The Origin and Destiny of Man in Christ” with these words:

Our governing premise is that the doctrine of man (anthropology) can be truly apprehended only in the light of the doctrine of Christ (Christology). Not only the destiny but also the origin of man involves a profound relationship with the Second Person of the Holy Trinity. Indeed, mankind’s destiny in Christ is precisely the fruition of mankind’s origin in Christ. This means, among other things, that redemption, which is the fulfillment of all God’s purposes in creation, loses its proper force if it is considered in isolation from creation. “Christology,” as Karl Rahner has remarked (“Current Problems in Christology: Theological Investigations, Vol. 1” pg. 185), “is at once the beginning and the end of anthropology.

Of fundamental importance…is the understanding of the Image of God as itself designating, ontologically, the eternal Son, and the understanding of man as by creation constituted in or after that image, by sin falling away from that image, and by redemption reconstituted in that image. Thus perceived, the divine purpose of creation is grounded in the Son, and what was begun in the Son is also completed in the Son. It follows that conformity to the image of God is essentially Christiformity. Man’s destiny, implicit in his origin, is the attainment of “the complete knowledge of the Son of God,” which coincides with his becoming “the perfect man,” his arrival at “the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ” (Eph. 4:13). Christ, accordingly, is the True Image in which man was formed at creation and into which by the reconciling grace of re-creation fallen man is being transformed (“The True Image” Preface ix).

As you can see, for Hughes Christology is not simply the key to understanding the Scripture, it is the fundamental reality governing the purpose of God in all things. From the beginning to the end, man’s destiny (and really, the destiny of the entire Created Order) is intimately tied to Christ. For any purpose of God to be fulfilled, it must be fulfilled in Christ for, as Paul says, “All things have been created by Him (Christ) and for Him (Christ)…He (Christ) is before all things and in Him (Christ) all things hold together…and it was the Father’s good pleasure for all the fullness to dwell in Him (Christ), and through Him (Christ) to reconcile all things to Himself…” (Col. 1:15-20). If it’s true that the goal of God is the “summing up of all things in Christ”, and all that that entails (Eph. 1:10), then Christ is the very heart of Creation and Redemption. And man, as the focal point of Creation as image-bearers, must, as Hughes intimates, have his origin and his destiny in relation to Christ to be fully, authentically “human”.

In the first chapter, Hughes makes this statement:

The question regarding the significance of man’s creation in the divine image is raised on the opening page of the Bible, but it is not clearly resolved until we come to the revelation in the New Testament that Christ himself, the Son, is the Image of God (2 Cor. 4:4; Col. 1:15). This disclosure is indisputably of immense consequence if we wish to establish a right understanding of the nature of man; for it points us to the truth that the authentic identity of man can be grasped only through the knowledge of man’s relationship to Christ—a relationship which, far from having its beginning with the incarnation of the Son of God at Bethlehem, extends right back to the creation itself, and even beyond that to the eternal distinction within the unity of the Godhead between the persons of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit” (pg. 3).

Hughes’ point here (that he will address at length in chapter 3) is that the Son is the Image of God and man was created in the image of God; and this distinction points us to the reality that man’s origin (and subsequent destiny) is directly related to his connection with Christ, the Son. At his creation, man was not the image, but created in the image. And this is of fundamental importance in understanding the work of the Spirit in conforming us (back and fully) into the image and likeness of Christ—the “image” in which we were created at the beginning and the “image” that we lost (or, more properly, was corrupted) in our rebellion at “The Fall”.

Hughes goes on in chapter one explaining “The Meaning of Creation in the Image of God” by distinguishing man from the rest of creation. Because it is only man who is declared to be created in the image of God, he holds preeminence within the created order and is the only being “fitted” to exercise dominion over God’s creation. The fact that man is created in the image of God “links man directly and responsibly to God in a way that is unknown to any other creature” (pg. 4).

Hughes goes on to say this:

Nothing is more basic than the recognition that being constituted in the image of God is of the very essence of and absolutely central to the humanness of man. It is the key that unlocks the meaning of his authentic humanity. Apart from this reality he cannot exist truly as man, since for man to deny God and the divine image stamped upon his being and to assert his own independent self-sufficiency is to deny his own constitution and thus to dehumanize himself. That this is so is confirmed by the appalling inhumanity of ungodly men in every age of human history (pg. 4).

In stressing the distinction of man with regard to the other creatures, Hughes shows that because man is created in the image of God he is therefore a “personal being”. The import of God’s declaration, “Let us make…” Hughes argues, is the reality of “the divine plurality-in-unity”, for it attest to the truth that “God, being triune, is a personal God” and that “God’s decision to create man is an interpersonal decision.” The importance of God being a personal being is crucial for understanding the constitution of man as a personal being and why he has such a need to express himself through relationships—to God and/or the created order in which he exists. That God is such a personal being is shown, Hughes says, in the aforementioned “divine plurality-in-unity”.

Hughes goes on to say, “An isolated or lone unit cannot be or know personality. To be personal, otherness must be present together with oneness, the one must be confronted and must interact with another, for personhood is a reality only within the sphere of person-to-person relationship. To be solitary is to lack identity. Only this personal distinction within the unity of the Godhead makes it possible to say, ‘Let us make man.’ Furthermore, it is this distinction which enables us to identify the Second Person of the Holy Trinity as the eternal Son who is the Image of God and through whom man’s person-to-person relationship with God is made a vital reality” (pg. 5).

And this is precisely why man, as a personal being (distinct from all other creations) is “…capable of personal fellowship with and personal response to his personal Creator. The fact that man is person from Person explains his ability to interact as person to Person…and leads us to the very heart of a correct comprehension of the meaning of his being created in the image of God” (pg. 5).

Hughes finishes his chapter by continuing to show that the Scripture places man at the pinnacle of “creation”; as “image-bearer”, man holds a special place in creation in that he is the point of “relation” between the created order and God. As image-bearer, man’s “dominion” over creation is the means by which the created order experiences its own fullness and destiny. This is another clue that Jesus, as the second Adam and True Man came to do so much more than simply “forgive” us for our sins. The whole of creation is implicated by His coming.

Hughes says it this way:

It is the creation of man that gives proportion and meaning to the whole divine work of creation; for it is in and through God’s personal creature man, who has been given dominion over all the earth, that the created order as a whole relates to God and achieves the purpose of its creation. The preeminent position of man in God’s creation is more than ontological; it is also inherently functional (pg 5).

As Hughes continues to show the superiority of man in the created order, he wraps up this important opening chapter by discussing the significance of man’s naming of the animals, the sanctity of man, and the synonymous nature of “image” and “likeness” (6-10).

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Great Posts!

Before posting another Hughes summary, I wanted to draw your attention to a couple of excellent posts from The Vossed World. If you ever wanted to understand the Redemptive-Historical significance of the story of Abigail, then you should read these posts carefully. They are not short, but they are great examples of how we should be reading our Old Testament and the "stories" that it contains. So often we reduce our understanding of the "characters" and situations of the the Old Testament Scripture to a glorified Christian "Aesop's Fables". We fail to recognize the real significance of what is happening. If all the Scripture testifies of Christ (and Jesus, as well as the NT writers, tells us that it does), then to fail to grasp the true meaning of OT passages is to miss the glory of Christ.

In light of Jesus' words and the testimony of the NT, it still amazes me that people read (and preachers preach) so many of these OT stories as if the main point is to challenge us to follow someone's example (or not). I get so tired of hearing preachers and psuedo-scholars on "Christian" radio explain the story of David and Goliath simply as our example to exercise faith: Be like David!! You need to exercise faith like David in order to fight against the "goliaths" in your life! Ughh!! Is that really what the story of David and Goliath is about? Did God spend so many centuries and use so many people and events simply to give us examples of how we're to live our lives? Didn't He have anything better to do than spend all that time and energy simply to show us what faith looks like...or courage...or friendship...or...? He could have simply had Moses write a fable of short stories to pass down and be done with it (which is what many unbelievers think of the OT anyway). He certainly didn't need to go through the extravagance (and misery) of thousands of years worth of human existence to teach us Morality! Yet this is precisely how the majority of Christians read their Old Testaments. Didn't God have something a little more important in mind?

Yes! Jesus tells us this Himself. He came to FULFILL the Scripture--all of it! The NT writers agree with Christ and spent their time and energy not encouraging the people to be like David, or Abraham, or ...; but rather, they spent their time explaining Christ from the Scripture. And that's because the purpose of God from the foundation of the world was the redemption of His creation in Christ. From the very beginning, the portrait of the Messiah has been painted. With ever greater clarity in suceeding generations, the portrait of Christ and His work was revealed. The OT is the "Story" of redemptive history as it looked to and prophesied of the coming One, the promised Seed of the Woman, who will come and recover what was lost in The Fall. The OT is the record of God's progress in working out His promise in the garden of a Seed to recover Sacred Space; and the Gospels and NT writings are the record of the fulfillment of God's promise in the Person and Work of Jesus Christ.

God's purpose from the beginning was the "summing up of all things in Christ" with the establishment of His Kingdom--and that has been accomplished now in Christ. All that awaits is the consummation of all things at the return of Christ when the created order itself will be redeemed and we, in our glorified bodies, enter into the "Shalomic" Shabbat of God's Rest. The OT is so much more than a glorified "Aesop's Fables"; it's the "story" of Christ...who He is and what He came to do.

Sorry. This was only going to be a short introduction to a couple of examples that show us how we should be reading our OT; but when I jump on my soapbox it is sometimes difficult to get me off of it. The "story" of Abigail is interesting on a number of levels and Chad over at The Vossed World has really done us a service in explaining how this passage of Scripture adds to the portrait of Christ. The "moralism" that pervades so much of the preaching and teaching within the church is especially confounded in the story of Abigail (as in Rahab), which you will see.

God had something bigger and better to do than simply to give us morality lessons. He was painting the portrait of Christ. Read these posts as an example of how we are to understand God's work in redemptive history.

BTW--I've also included a link for the second of Culver's "Sermon on the Mount" notes here.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Sermon on the Mount--Culver

After starting again with my Sermon on the Mount series, I noticed that we have finally added our Pastor's PDF files to our SermonAudio page. And since I've been generating more "theologically oriented" hits recently (if not "comments"), I thought that rather than trying to re-invent the wheel with my own posts, which would probably only turn out to resemble a square block, I would simply link our PDF files each week. This is the first file in the series. Feel free to download and/or print the file for easier reading; just click on the title link above and you'll be re-directed to the paper. Every few days I'll add some more until we're caught up and then I'll add the new one each week. These aren't transcriptions from the sermons, just the notes that our Pastor uses and makes available. For the full force of each message, you can go here to download each sermon as well (there's also a link on my sidebar--SGCC on SermonAudio).

I'll probably continue to comment on this series from time-to-time when the subject matter triggers other considerations or begs for Googly's input :-). My first couple of posts included information from my own notes and study; so if you're interested just check out the archives here, here and here (the last one is an attempt to clarify my remarks about "Israel"). May the Lord bless you richly as you join with us in studying the Sermon on the Mount. And feel free to comment...I'll happily interact with any response that these files generate.

On another note, after previously posting on Philip E. Hughes' position on Anihilationism, I've been re-reading his book, "The True Image: The Origin and Destiny of Man in Christ". This is a fascinating read and I plan on posting some material from this book as I go through it again. I'm also planning on interacting with Cornelius Plantinga's work as he continues to instruct us concerning "Shalom" and the purpose of God to restore His "good" creation in Christ. I heartily recommend both authors be added to your library.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Culver Quotes-1

Since it's been awhile that I've added anything here, I thought I'd post some random quotes from one of my favorite books by one of my favorite authors: "Speak, Lord: Learning to Listen to the Bible" (which you can get here) by Christopher Culver, Pastor of Sovereign Grace Community Church out here in the Denver area. Remember, context is everything...but since I don't want to just re-write the whole book, I'll just post a few highlights from time to time.

God's self-revelation is historically framed and conditioned. The Bible is not a collection of religious, doctrinal, and theological statements; rather, it is an inspired record of and commentary upon God's ongoing interactions with the world through the movement of human history (pg. 12).

The Bible has a cohesive and purposeful storyline: From the opening verses of Genesis, it has a specific destination in mind, and everything it contains is recorded precisely because it contributes to the development of its "story" as it advances toward its predetermined goal (12-13).

The biblical text demonstrates that divine revelation is incarnate in history. It doesn't simply occur in history. It has its identity and lives, grows, and matures in history. Indeed, history is itself revelatory, for it is nothing except the observable outworking in time and space of God's eternal and sovereign puposes (13).

To paraphrase (Geerhardus) Vos, Biblical Theology is the theological discipline concerned with God's self-revelation in the Bible, but specifically from the vantage point of the organized and harmonious process by which God progressively unfolds it within the upward movement of human history (15).

Because man bears the image and likeness of God, and because he lives in a world that bears the indelible mark of God's existence and power, no human being can escape God's self-revelation (20).

In accordance with His eternal intention for human beings, God has been pleased to not leave them to a partial and obscured sight of Himself; He has made Himself known to His image-bearers by direct disclosure. It is this revelation of the divine person and purpose--particularly as it implicates and has its focal point in God's design and destiny for mankind in Jesus Christ--that is the subject of the Bible (22).

God created people as personal beings in His own image and likeness so that they would be able to know Him as He is. God's intention was that human beings would have a Person-to-person knowledge of Him. This kind of knowledge is not merely informational; it is relational (24).

Knowledge as relationship is a foundational biblical principle, and lies at the heart of all of the Bible's key themes. For this reason, one cannot really understand God's self-revelation in the Bible apart from it (relationship). From beginning to end, the Scriptures show that God has revealed Himself to men, not so much by direct theological pronouncements, but by entering into a relationship with them. Initially, these relationships were with individuals, but then, in Abraham, moved outward to his family and then to the tribes descended from him. Later, God made Himself known to an entire nation descended from Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. God established the nation of Israel as His "beloved son," and they alone were given to know Him as their covenant Father and Husband. Now, in Christ, God is becoming the Father of a multitude from every tribe, tongue, nation, and people (25).