Question 19. Whence knowest thou this?
Answer: From the holy gospel, which God himself first revealed in Paradise; and afterwards published by the patriarchs (b) and prophets, (c) and represented by the sacrifices and other ceremonies of the law; (d) and lastly, has fulfilled it by his only begotten Son. (e)
In question 19 Caleb, the authors of the Catechism (Zacharias Ursinus & Caspar Olevianus) finish Lord’s Day #6 asking from where we know what they taught us in questions 16-18 regarding the person and work of Jesus Christ. The answer they give is insightful on several accounts.
First, the Catechism’s answer indicates that we know what we know about Christ and the Christian faith from the Scriptures, and yet the way they give the answer indicates that the Catechizers (Zacharias Ursinus & Caspar Olevianus) wanted to impress upon the student that the Gospel is inclusive of all of Scripture from Genesis to Revelation. This overturns the notion that the Gospel is somehow to be restricted to what we find in Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John; those books of the Bible known as “The Gospels.” It is true that in the Gospels we get the life and work of Jesus Christ but the Catechism wants to impress upon us that ones finds the truth about the Lord Jesus Christ everywhere in the Scripture. It is because this is true Caleb that during the Liturgy at Charlotte CRC we will give “God’s Absolution of Sin” from week to week from different portions of Scripture, Old and New Testament.
This observation reminds us that when we read the Scripture we need to read all of the Scripture understanding discovering Christ. Put negatively, if we read Scripture, all the while missing the person and work of the Lord Christ we are not reading Scripture aright. To miss Christ while reading the Scripture is like reading Tolkien and missing the One ring. Some portions of Scripture will emphasize Christ in His work as our Great High Priest who does all the rescuing (saving) of His people. Some portions of Scripture will emphasize Christ in His work as our Great High King who leads us in dominion taking under His authority; a dominion that incarnates our freely given salvation into whatever we are called to. Some portions of Scripture will emphasize Christ in His work as our Prophet speaking to us words of comfort and challenge. But all of Scriptures proclaims our great Mediator, the Lord Jesus Christ.
This truth that we have just examined can be a plumb line for you in years to come when it comes to deciding what Church you may or may not attend. If you are not being given Christ from the Pulpit and from the teaching lectern but are being given therapeutic psychology feel good piffle then the Church is no Church. The Church’s call is hold out Christ to God’s people in all its preaching and teaching from Scripture.
Second this answer emphasizes that God’s revelation is about redemption. When God spoke to man He spoke a revelatory word that explained redemption both as to how God saves man and as to how God would have man manifest His saved life. It is true that God acts throughout Scripture but His acting would mean nothing to us if we did not have his explanatory word in revelation. That Jesus dies on a cross would mean nothing if God did not give a revelatory word that explains that the death of Jesus was for sin. The God who acts in redemption is the God who speaks in revelation.
Third this # 19 answer reveals that redemption is progressive. By that we mean that redemption grows and expands, in terms of its contour with the passage of time. Think of it this way. If you were to plant a tulip bulb without knowing what it would produce ahead of time you would have no idea what that bulb would eventually look like without the passage of time. Redemption, like the tulip bulb, begins as a bulb in Genesis and grows incrementally, stage by stage, to a tulip throughout Scripture, blooming to full flower in the Springtime that is the person and work of the Lord Jesus Christ. We look back now seeing the whole tulip in springtime and see more clearly the whole unfolding process from bulb to bloom. This process, as we see it unfold in Scripture is called “the progress of redemption.” The first glimmering we get of the Gospel is found in Genesis
Gen.3:15 And I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; he shall crush thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel.
This is our proverbial tulip bulb of the Gospel. We look back now and see how this promise of God is the beginning of the Gospel. This is Gospel because in it we learn of the great conflict between the seed of the serpent (Satan’s co-laborers) and the seed of the woman (ultimately, the Lord Christ and penultimately, His people) that ends in the Messiah being bruised by the serpent and the serpent being crushed by the Messiah. In the Cross the serpent bruised the Messiah but in the Resurrection and Ascension the head of the serpent was crushed. This theme of conflict and of bruising and crushing is a theme the developed throughout the Scriptures.
One example, of the development of the this Gospel conflict theme between, is David vs. Goliath. David is a picture of the Lord Christ fighting solitary for His people against the serpent champion Goliath. Goliath is decked out in scale armor, the Hebrew word literally meaning “scales”. (1 Sam. 17:5) Typologically this harkens back to the scales of the Serpent in the Garden of Eden. David posits a stone between the Serpent representative’s eyes and proceeds to cut his head off. Goliath was dressed like a serpent with his scale armor, and he died like a serpent, with a head wound. David, as a type of Christ has crushed the head of the serpent.
In the New Testament this theme is likewise taken up after Christ’s resurrection and ascension. In Romans, the Holy Spirit, hearkening back to this theme began in Genesis can say in 16:20, The God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet.
I have given you just one example but this is a theme we find repeatedly developed in Scripture. Think of Jael crushing the head of Sisera, the serpent representative opposing God’s people (Judges 4). Similarly there is Judges 9:52-53.
52 So Abimelech came as far as the tower and fought against it; and he drew near the door of the tower to burn it with fire. 53 But a certain woman dropped an upper millstone on Abimelech’s head and crushed his skull.
These are all instances where we see the theme of God’s representative crushing the head of the serpent developed and we find it ultimately fulfilled in the Lord Christ crushing the head of Satan in His resurrection and ascension.
Of course there are other themes that the Scriptures develop that are typological of Christ who is the fulfillment of all the Gospel that is promissory in the Old Testament. The Gospel is first pronounced in Paradise as a tulip bulb but through the rest of Scripture we see the Gospel continued to unfold and develop. What this reminds us is that a proper reading of the whole of Scripture is like watching a time lapsed film that shows the growth of a acorn into a great oak condensed into a comparatively short book. Centuries passed in the progress of Redemption and the Scriptures give us the necessary information to understand the whole — if we read the Scripture understanding that we needs see Christ.
This video might give you an idea of what I’m trying to get at. Who would have ever guessed that the baby at the beginning of this time lapsed video would be the 12 year old at the end.
Similarly, no one would have been able to identify the Gospel from Genesis 3 unless the Scriptures gave us the progress of redemption in a time lapsed form, condensing vast amounts of time into a comparatively small book. The baby of Genesis 3 is the same Gospel message all grown up in Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John.
A few scriptures that are given from the prophets that pronounced Christ,
Gen.22:18 And in thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed; because thou hast obeyed my voice.
Informs us that all the nations that remain distinct nations are blessed by the seed of Abraham who is Christ. The New Testament begins by tell us that Jesus is the son of David, the son of Abraham.
Gen.12:3 And I will bless them that bless thee, and curse him that curseth thee: and in thee shall all families of the earth be blessed.
In Revelation 7:9 we see all the different nations — nations which retain yet their national identity — blessed by having been saved by the work of Christ. Many different blessed nations and yet one spiritual people of God.
After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands,
Gen.49:10 The sceptre shall not depart from Judah, nor a lawgiver from between his feet, until Shiloh come; and unto him shall the gathering of the people be. Gen.49:11 Binding his foal unto the vine, and his ass’s colt unto the choice vine; he washed his garments in wine, and his clothes in the blood of grapes:
The Kings (sceptre standing for Kingly office) in the OT were from Judah and Christ is from the tribe of Judah. Likewise in the Sermon on the Mount we see the Lord Christ as a Lawgiver, the anti-type of Moses the great lawgiver who last gave law from a Mountain context. The whole notion of this King and lawgiver gathering people is spoken repeatedly about in the OT,
“Now the predicates of the covenant are applied in Isa. 19 to the Gentiles of the future, — “Egypt my people, and Assyria, the work of my hands, and Israel, mine inheritance,” Egypt, the people of “Jehovah of hosts,” (Isa. 19:25) is therefore also expected to live up to the covenant obligations, implied for Jehovah’s people. And Assyria comes under similar obligations and privileges. These nations are representative of the great Gentile world, to which the covenant privileges will therefore be extended.”
Martin J. Wyngaarden, The Future of the Kingdom in Prophecy and Fulfillment: A Study of the Scope of “Spiritualization” in Scripture (Eugene: Wipf & Stock, 2011), p. 94.
“More than a dozen excellent commentaries could be mentioned that all interpret Israel as thus inclusive of Jew and Gentile, in this verse, — the Gentile adherents thus being merged with the covenant people of Israel, though each nationality remains distinct.”
“For, though Israel is frequently called Jehovah’s People, the work of his hands, his inheritance, yet these three epithets severally are applied not only to Israel, but also to Assyria and to Egypt: “Blessed be Egypt, my people, and Assyria, the work of my hands, and Israel, mine inheritance.” 19:25.
Thus the highest description of Jehovah’s covenant people is applied to Egypt, — “my people,” — showing that the Gentiles will share the covenant blessings, not less than Israel. Yet the several nationalities are here kept distinct, even when Gentiles share, in the covenant blessing, on a level of equality with Israel. Egypt, Assyria and Israel are not nationally merged. And the same principles, that nationalities are not obliterated, by membership in the covenant, applies, of course, also in the New Testament dispensation.”
Wyngaarden, pp. 101-102.
And then this King and Lawgiver gathering people is fulfilled in the New Testament, as on the day of Pentecost, people hear the Gospel pronouncement in a multitude of languages, thus revealing that the distinct peoples are gathered unto Him just as written in Genesis 49 as a Gospel declaration. That the Apostles understood it this way is seen in how they quote the Scripture. In Acts 15:14 forward they quote a Old Testament text (Amos 9:11-12) to prove that the coming in and gathering of the Gentiles into the Church and unto Christ is a fulfillment of the promise to rebuild David’s fallen inheritance. Christ is the one who has gathered the people unto Himself as the greater David who holds the eternal scepter and is the eternal lawgiver. This greater David shall continue to bear His scepter and publish His law until all the nations are gathered under the shade of His great rule.
The writers of the Catechism then go on to give Scriptural texts to show how the Gospel was promised in the Prophets and by the sacrifices and ceremonies of the old covenant. Everywhere we turn in Scripture we find the Lord Christ placarded. I won’t wear you out with teasing each passage out in order to develop the theme of how all Scripture proclaims Christ. This is the material that gives us a lifetime of study and preaching.
Prophets Proclaiming the Gospel
Isa.42:1 Behold my servant, whom I uphold; mine elect, in whom my soul delighteth; I have put my spirit upon him: he shall bring forth judgment to the Gentiles. Isa.42:2 He shall not cry, nor lift up, nor cause his voice to be heard in the street. Isa.42:3 A bruised reed shall he not break, and the smoking flax shall he not quench: he shall bring forth judgment unto truth. Isa.42:4 He shall not fail nor be discouraged, till he have set judgment in the earth: and the isles shall wait for his law. Isa.43:25 I, even I, am he that blotteth out thy transgressions for mine own sake, and will not remember thy sins. Isa.49:5 And now, saith the LORD that formed me from the womb to be his servant, to bring Jacob again to him, Though Israel be not gathered, yet shall I be glorious in the eyes of the LORD, and my God shall be my strength. Isa.49:6 And he said, It is a light thing that thou shouldest be my servant to raise up the tribes of Jacob, and to restore the preserved of Israel: I will also give thee for a light to the Gentiles, that thou mayest be my salvation unto the end of the earth. Isa.49:22 Thus saith the Lord GOD, Behold, I will lift up mine hand to the Gentiles, and set up my standard to the people: and they shall bring thy sons in their arms, and thy daughters shall be carried upon their shoulders. Isa.49:23 And kings shall be thy nursing fathers, and their queens thy nursing mothers: they shall bow down to thee with their face toward the earth, and lick up the dust of thy feet; and thou shalt know that I am the LORD: for they shall not be ashamed that wait for me.
Jer.23:5 Behold, the days come, saith the LORD, that I will raise unto David a righteous Branch, and a King shall reign and prosper, and shall execute judgment and justice in the earth. Jer.23:6 In his days Judah shall be saved, and Israel shall dwell safely: and this is his name whereby he shall be called, THE LORD OUR RIGHTEOUSNESS.
Jer.31:32 Not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day that I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt; which my covenant they brake, although I was an husband unto them, saith the LORD: Jer.31:33 But this shall be the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel; After those days, saith the LORD, I will put my law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts; and will be their God, and they shall be my people.
Jer.32:39 And I will give them one heart, and one way, that they may fear me for ever, for the good of them, and of their children after them: Jer.32:40 And I will make an everlasting covenant with them, that I will not turn away from them, to do them good; but I will put my fear in their hearts, that they shall not depart from me. Jer.32:41 Yea, I will rejoice over them to do them good, and I will plant them in this land assuredly with my whole heart and with my whole soul.
Mic.7:18 Who is a God like unto thee, that pardoneth iniquity, and passeth by the transgression of the remnant of his heritage? he retaineth not his anger for ever, because he delighteth in mercy. Mic.7:19 He will turn again, he will have compassion upon us; he will subdue our iniquities; and thou wilt cast all their sins into the depths of the sea. Mic.7:20 Thou wilt perform the truth to Jacob, and the mercy to Abraham, which thou hast sworn unto our fathers from the days of old. Acts 10:43 To him give all the prophets witness, that through his name whosoever believeth in him shall receive remission of sins.
Rom.1:2 (Which he had promised afore by his prophets in the holy scriptures,)
Heb.1:1 God, who at sundry times and in divers manners spake in time past unto the fathers by the prophets,
Acts 3:22 For Moses truly said unto the fathers, A prophet shall the Lord your God raise up unto you of your brethren, like unto me; him shall ye hear in all things whatsoever he shall say unto you. Acts 3:23 And it shall come to pass, that every soul, which will not hear that prophet, shall be destroyed from among the people. Acts 3:24 Yea, and all the prophets from Samuel and those that follow after, as many as have spoken, have likewise foretold of these days. Acts 10:43 To him give all the prophets witness, that through his name whosoever believeth in him shall receive remission of sins. John 5:46 For had ye believed Moses, ye would have believed me: for he wrote of me.
NT Insistence that the OT Sacrifice and Ceremonies Proclaimed the Gospel
(d) Heb.10:1 For the law having a shadow of good things to come, and not the very image of the things, can never with those sacrifices which they offered year by year continually make the comers thereunto perfect. Heb.10:7 Then said I, Lo, I come (in the volume of the book it is written of me,) to do thy will, O God.
Col.2:7 Rooted and built up in him, and stablished in the faith, as ye have been taught, abounding therein with thanksgiving.
John 5:46 For had ye believed Moses, ye would have believed me: for he wrote of me.
(e) Rom.10:4 For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to every one that believeth.
Gal.4:4 But when the fulness of the time was come, God sent forth his Son, made of a woman, made under the law, Gal.4:5 To redeem them that were under the law, that we might receive the adoption of sons.
Gal.3:24 Wherefore the law was our schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ, that we might be justified by faith.
Col.2:17 Which are a shadow of things to come; but the body is of Christ.
The Scripture gives us Christ. It gives us Christ as the great High Priest who is also the suffering servant. It gives us the ascended King leading His people from triumph unto triumph. It gives our great Prophet who speaks God’s word to us. The Scripture was and is given to give us Christ.