WDJD: Scripture

Introduction of the WDJD series

“WDJD” stands for “What did Jesus do?” WDJD is an acronym that is a close cousin to “WWJD” (“What would Jesus do?”)

Today’s talk is the first in a WDJD series—a series without a definitive end. As I consider all the subjects that I could easily speak on, for instance “WDJD: The Gospel,” “WDJD: Neighbors” (for you Linda per your Facebook question), etcetera—I can’t help but think of how John ended his Gospel:

“Now there are also many other things that Jesus did. Were every one of them to be written, I suppose that the world itself could not contain the books that would be written” (John 21:25).

Even limited to just what is recorded of Jesus’ example and words I suspect I could preach every week for the rest of my life and never run out of material. Luckily you are to be tortured by me at most once a month.

[ These are quick sermon notes…not cleaned-up…and missing the "extras" that come out in the audio (which, sadly, is not available). All quotes are from the English Standard Version unless otherwise noted. ]

What is the purpose of the series?

To quote John again:

“Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; but these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name” (John 20:30-31).

My desire is that those who do not believe will find, in seeing what Christ did, reason to believe; that those of us who do believe will realize that there is no greater example than Jesus Himself (and that true “belief” requires more than mental assent); and that in our Lord we will clearly see the God “who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth” (1 Timothy 2:4).

Why WDJD?

First, why not “WWJD”?

Although “What would Jesus do?” has some validity, the reality is that the only thing we can know for certainty is what Jesus did, not what He would do given a specific modern situation. It is an open invitation to controversy—for instance, the repetitive discussion of “What would Jesus Drive?” I thought it was something that came up last year, only to quickly find an article that discussed it as far back as June of 2001…another in November of 2002…

So, what really has been accomplished by trying to figure out what Jesus would do when it comes to choosing a model of car? Can it really be solved.

However, we can know exactly what Jesus did do, and try to do our best to apply it to our situation…no argument about the former and plenty of grace about disagreements about the latter…

What is Prolegomena?

The things you need to say beforehand. Per my Mac’s dictionary, from pro ‘before’ + legein ‘say.’

Although I am going to postpone it for now, it’s important to know why we really should care what Jesus did—otherwise the entire series will be a complete waste of your time.

Part of the reason I am willing to postpone it is because I am “preaching to the choir” — that is, I figure I don’t have to convince you that Jesus has a special claim in history. Still, it is important enough to discuss that special claim that it’ll be a significant portion of my next talk in the series, “WDJD: Prolegomena.”

Why not do Prolegomena first?

Because a while back on a nightly e-mail list I moderate I asked someone who was wrestling with how to view and interpret Scripture if he would feel comfortable treating it the same way Christ did. This is me killing two birds with one stone.

Why do we care about Jesus’ view of Scripture?

Because if we truly believe that He is the Son of God—well, that He is God—then it would be impossible for us to think any other view of

Because our view of Scripture can make or break our eternal fate, for instance…

Bart Ehrman is perhaps the most famous (and published) agnostic scholar—he is chair of the department of Religious Studies at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. He wasn’t always an agnostic—he had a “born again” experience, got a diploma from Moody Bible Institute, and ended up at Princeton Theological Seminary. The turning point in his belief was at that seminary…where, after putting great effort into an explanation for an apparent discrepancy between Mark and Samuel (regarding who was priest when David and his men ate consecrated bread—Mark 2:25-26 and 1 Samuel 21:1-6)…his professor wrote a simple comment: “Maybe Mark just made a mistake.”

“In short, my study of the Greek New Testament, and my investigations in the manuscripts that contain it, led to a radical rethinking of my understanding of what the Bible is. This was a seismic change before me. Before this—starting with my born-again experience in high school, through my fundamentalist days at Moody, and on through my evangelical days at Wheaton—my faith had been based completely on a certain view of the Bible as the fully inspired, inerrant word of God. Now I no longer saw the Bible that way. The Bible began to appear to me as a very human book” (Misquoting Jesus, page II).

Since his introduction didn’t literally say he no longer believed, I sent him an e-mail—sadly, an exchange I don’t appear to have kept readily available. I asked him if he believed—and very honestly he said something like, “I once did, but no longer do.”

Why do we care about Jesus’ view of Scripture?—because it would be tragic of those where our words in the future…

Finally, why is Alan Fahrner preaching?

Although I do have a degree in religion for Liberty University, the reason I am before you is because…well, because I am willing.

But perhaps this is a better reason—I believe that Paul’s words to Timothy are captured in the Bible as guidance for all of us: “Preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching” (2 Timothy 4:2).

Oh…and I’m quoting from the English Standard Version…

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Jesus’ View of Scripture

My approach

To best understand Jesus’ view of Scripture I had hoped to read all four gospels completely—but travel and other schedule impediments meant I only got through Matthew and Mark. However, even with only looking at those two books it becomes very clear how Jesus lived and breathed Scripture (which further research also bears out).

Jesus quoted from every part of the Old Testament

I found quotes from Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Hosea, Micah, Malachi, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Psalms, Daniel, and Zechariah—11 Old Testament books. I haven’t been able to confirm it yet, but an apparently reliable web page I found this morning said He quoted from 24 of them (http://www.bible.ca/b-canon-jesus-favored-old-testament-textual-manuscript.htm).

Even with my limited review of only two of the Gospels, Jesus clearly quoted or referred to every “division” that exists for the Old Testament books. Jesus referred to it in two parts—”The Law and the Prophets” (e.g. Matthew 7:12).

[ Show chart ]

Even if you divide it into Law, History, Poetry/Wisdom, Major Prophets, and Minor Prophets as the Holman Book of Biblical Charts, Maps, and Reconstructions does—Jesus used every section.

Also…the fact that Jesus did refer to the Law and the Prophets is an implicit blessing of all of the canon as the Jews of that time understood it.

Jesus treated the Scripture’s history as fact

For instance, in my limited review I found him referring to Sidon, Tyre, Sodom, David, the Queen of the South, creation, and Noah.

[ Quote “Jesus consistently” part on page 6 and 7 from “Christ’s View of Scripture” by John Wenham in Inerrancy. ]

“These quotations are taken by our Lord more or less at random from different parts of the Old Testament, and some periods of its history are covered more fully than others. Yet it is evident that He was familiar with most, if not all, of the Old Testament and that He treated all parts of it equally as history. Curiously enough, the narratives that are least acceptable to the ‘modern mind’ are the very ones that He seemed most fond of choosing for illustrations” (page 7).

That last fact had jumped out to me even before reading Wenham’s article—for instance Jesus treats creation, Jonah being swallowed by a fish, and the flood as fact, and I think we’ve all seen how all three of those seem to be huge stumbling blocks to modern minds, even within the church…

Jesus showed that the specific words of Scripture are important

There are some people who think that the Bible does have a special place, but that it’s human enough that the individual words don’t matter. However, within the Bible itself are cases where an argument turns on a single word—perhaps the most famous is Paul’s in Galatians 3:16: “Now the promises were made to Abraham and to his offspring. It does not say, ‘And to offsprings,’ referring to many, but referring to one, ‘And to your offspring,’ who is Christ.” Paul’s argument hinges on whether a word is plural or not.

Jesus similarly made a whole argument dependent on a single word (an argument, strangely enough, also about Himself):

“Now while the Pharisees were gathered together, Jesus asked them a question, saying, ‘What do you think about the Christ? Whose son is he?’ They said to him, ‘The son of David.’ He said to them, ‘How is it then that David, in the Spirit, calls him Lord, saying, ‘“The Lord said to my Lord, Sit at my right hand, until I put your enemies under your feet”? If then David calls him Lord, how is he his son?’” (Matthew 22:41-45)

An argument based on the single word “Lord”…

Jesus believed in its prophecies

For instance, Malichi 4:5-6 predicted Elijah would return. Matthew 17:10-11 says, “And the disciples asked him, ‘Then why do the scribes say that first Elijah must come?’ He answered, ‘Elijah does come, and he will restore all things.’”

But more importantly, Jesus not only believed Scripture would be fulfilled, but that He was it’s fulfillment:

“Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them” (Matthew 5:17—see also John 5:39).

Jesus was “saturated” with the Old Testament

Although the number of times Jesus quotes the Old Testament is enough that we should consider it God’s Word, even more impressive is how prolific His allusions to it are. I had personally noticed His very scriptural choice of metaphors (e.g. yeast, weddings)…and after giving a lot more evidence, Wenham summarizes it nicely:

“The total impression that these and many other allusions in the Gospels give is that the mind of Christ was saturated with the Old Testament. As He spoke, there flowed out perfectly naturally a complete range of uses varying from direct quotation to unconscious reflections of Old Testament phraseology. There is no trace of artificial quotation of Scripture as a matter of pious habit. Jesus’ mind was so steeped in both the words and principles of Scripture that quotation and allusion came from His lips naturally and appositely in all sorts of circumstances” (p. 23).

Summarizing Christ’s view of Scripture

“The evidence is abundantly clear:

To Christ the Old Testament was true, authoritative, inspired.

To Him the God of the Old Testament was the one living God, and the teaching of the Old Testament was the teaching of the living God.

To Him what Scripture said, God said” (Wenham, p. 30).

I can’t say it better than that.

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Jesus’ Use of Scripture

Now that we know Jesus’ view of Scripture, how did He use it?

First, a quick side track…

Look at your Bibles for small letters that point to footnotes—it will help you not only see where Jesus’ quoted Scripture, but where Scripture quotes Scripture (or alludes to it).

Jesus taught with Scripture

“And they went into Capernaum, and immediately on the Sabbath l​he entered the synagogue and was teaching. And ​they were astonished at his teaching, ​for he taught them as one who had authority, and not as the scribes” (Mark 1:21-22)

“And they were all amazed, so that they questioned among themselves, saying, “What is this? ​A new teaching with authority! He commands even the unclean spirits, and they obey him” (Mark 1:27)

“With many such parables he spoke the word to them, as they were able to hear it” (Mark 4:33)

  • He taught with authority
  • Some of what he taught was new (don’t be satisfied with what others teach you…there is “new” stuff in there)
  • He taught in ways they could understand (“as they were able to hear it”)

Jesus used Scripture for reproof

“And he said to them, “Well did Isaiah prophesy of you hypocrites, as it is written, ‘This people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far from me; in vain do they worship me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.’ You leave the commandment of God and hold to the tradition of men” (Mark 7:6-8)

And we all can’t forget how he reproved Satan with Scripture (Matthew 4 and Mark 1).

Jesus used Scripture to correct

“And Pharisees came up and in order to test him asked, ‘Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife?’ He answered them, ‘What did Moses command you?’ They said, ‘Moses allowed a man to write a certificate of divorce and to send her away.’ And Jesus said to them, ‘Because of your ​hardness of heart he wrote you this commandment. But from the beginning of creation, “God made them ​male and female.” “Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife,​and ​the two shall become one flesh.” So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate’” (Mark 10:2-8).

Jesus use Scripture to train in righteousness

“And as he was setting out on his journey, a man ran up and knelt before him and asked him, ‘Good Teacher, what must I do to ​inherit eternal life?’ And Jesus said to him, ‘Why do you call me good? No one is good except God alone. You know the commandments: “Do not murder, Do not commit adultery, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Do not defraud, Honor your father and mother.”’ And he said to him, ‘Teacher, ​all these I have kept from my youth.’ And Jesus, looking at him, ​loved him, and said to him, ‘You lack one thing: go, sell all that you have and give to the poor, and you will have​treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.’ Disheartened by the saying, he went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions” (Mark 10:17-22).

Reproof, correction, and training with Scripture. Sound familiar?

All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that ​the man of God​ may be competent, equipped ​for every good work. (2 Timothy 3:16:17)

But that’s not all that Jesus did with Scripture…

Jesus memorized Scripture (although it may have been his only option)

Jesus took His titles from Scripture (Son of Man and “I AM”)

Jesus used it for proof (e.g. David in Matt 12)

Jesus fulfilled Scripture (John 5:39, Matt 5:17-19)

Jesus applied Scripture

Jesus preached from scripture — “And many were gathered together, so that there was no more room, not even at the door. And he was preaching the word to them” (Mark 2:2).

Jesus saw Scripture as authoritative (e.g. Matt 8:4 “…but go show yourself to the priest and offer the gift that Moses commended…” and Mark 10:3 “What did Moses command you”?)

And I could go on…but perhaps one of the most significant of Jesus’ use of Scripture is…

Jesus died with Scripture

Recorded between the four gospels are seven last statements of Jesus on the cross. Perhaps the most memorable one is “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?” (Matthew 27:46; Mark 15:34) No…that isn’t Jesus suddenly losing faith…even as He was about to die Scripture was on His lips—that is a quote from Psalm 22.

As you pass from this life to the next, will you have God’s Word on your lips?

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Wrapping up…

We have seen Christ’s confidence and various uses of Scripture. As we develop the same confidence in the Bible, let’s be cautious not to repeat the mistake the scholars of Jesus’ time made:

“You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness to me, yet you refuse to come to me that you may have life” (John 5:39-40).

Yes, there is eternal life in the Bible—but it’s not in Scripture itself, it’s in the person who “came to fulfill it” (Matthew 5:17).

My hope, as we continue through the WDJD series is to be able to speak as Paul did in 1 Corinthians 2:2-5…

“For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. And I was with you in weakness and in fear and much trembling, and my speech and my message were not in plausible words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, that your faith might not rest in the wisdom of men but in the power of God.”


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