All revelation is redemptive in nature.
It’s not just my interpretation. It’s not just a matter of method. There is a lot at stake. In a sense, one could make the seemingly outrageous claim that the Gospel is itself at stake. But since I am not a fear-monger and I generally despise outrageous claims, I won’t make it.
I have been writing over the past few weeks about the art and science of Biblical interpretation. My approach is often called the redemptive-historical approach. It is commonly set over against what is called the historical-grammatical approach. Frankly, it shouldn’t be set over against that position at all—it should be an extension of it.
Those who take the Bible seriously believe that God breathed out the Words of Sacred Scripture. We call this truth inspiration. But this isn’t all that Bible-believer believes. We acknowledge that God breathed out everything else as well. He breathed out the Word and He breathed out the world. Any study of hermeneutics must account for both of these divine actions. There is therefore no such thing as “bare linguistics” or “bare history” since God is the One who gives and governs both. We communicate through language because God has condescended to speak to us. We find ourselves in the story of the world only because the Author decided to write one. We call that script history. So any attempt to dissect the Scriptures in a way that says, “Let’s begin and end with the human aspect” betrays a seriously deficient view of God, inspiration and providence. This is true precisely because God is active in every part of His grand story—He writes the script, He forms the stage, He casts the characters, He directs the narrative, He forms the plot, He guides the tension, He builds the climax, He resolves the tension, and He consummates the story…perfectly.
Since God spoke the world as well as the words, great care must be given to rightly understand the contextual meaning as well as the canonical meaning. That is, we understand the text as it is found in its immediate context (grammar, syntax, culture, period, human author, etc.) then we view it in its ultimate context (redemptive, christocentric, christotelic, covenantal, typological, metanarrative, etc). So let us not take an either/or position between these two interpretative grids. Rather, let us adopt a both/and approach to uncover the plot and finely-tuned details of the drama of redemption.
Let me give an example. Hopefully you will see that if the Divine/human dynamic is lost then so is the organic unity of Scripture. If the organic unity of the Bible is lost, then so are we.
In the greatest calamity that ever befell our race, our father Adam abdicated his assigned role as the guardian of his wife and family. This took place when Adam was standing in the shade of a particular tree in a particular garden, and it was not really so long ago. Our mother Eve was there too, and as she reached for the fruit, she did so in the grip of the lust of the eyes (1 Jn. 2:16; Gen. 3:6), the lust of the flesh (1 Jn. 2:16; Gen. 3:6), and the pride of life (1 Jn. 2:16; Gen. 3:6). She was deceived, and this is not surprising because she had not yet been brought ut of Adam’s side when God had given him the single prohibition. Adam, however, knew of the restriction directly from God, and yet he stood by, mute. He was close enough to take the fruit from Eve’s hand once she had eaten it (Gen. 3:6). He was with her. And this is why Scripture says that sin entered the world through one man, and not through one woman (Rom. 5:17).
In this calamity, at this fateful tree, we all rebelled against God. When Adam sinned, we sinned in him and though him (Rom. 5:12). God in His wisdom has created mankind (or, to use the Hebrew for mankind, Adam) in such a way that we were all covenantally connected in one man. When it comes to sin, we are all close cousins. We are mankind. We are Adam. And we all sinned at the tree. God determined to provide us with a salvation that works in the same covenantal way that our loss of innocence did. Just as the disobedience of our father Adam (at a tree) plunged us into darkness, so the obedience of our father the last Adam (at a tree) resulted in our salvation.
But there are differences. In the first instance, God gave Eve to Adam, and then the disobedience followed. In our salvation, this order is reversed. God gave the second Adam a bitter cup to drink, and He drank it while hanging on a tree under the curse of God. And at that moment, a soldier on the ground took another piece of wood—the shaft of a spear—and became the instrumental cause of the creation of a bride from the second Adam. An Adam is not fully an Adam without an Eve, and this second Eve is the Church of the Living God. And the second Eve came from the side of her Adam, just as the first Eve had done.
The first Adam was put into a deep sleep in order for Eve to be taken from his side. This sleep is a picture of death. When the Lord Jesus died, He fulfilled this type—He had fallen into His deep “sleep.” And at that moment, a spear was rammed into His side, and the Apostle John takes great pains to explain how important this moment was. “But on of the soldiers with a spear pierced his side, and forthwith came there out blood and water. And he that saw it bare record, and his record is true: and he knoweth that he saith true, that ye might believe” (Jn. 19:34-35).
Mark well, John says—there was blood and water that came from the Lord’s side. Why? So that you might believe.
Blood and water came from His side, and the Spirit bore witness to this through John, and in that blood and water we find the formation of the Christian Church. “This is he that came by water and blood, even Jesus Christ; not by water only, but by water and blood” (1 Jn. 5:6). This water and blood is very important—it is the basis of our witness and identity. Christ came by water and by blood, and this is why we come by water and blood. And this is also why we as believers must testify to it in this way. “And there are three that bear witness in earth, the Spirit, and the water, and the blood: and these three agree in one” (1 Jn. 5:8; Jn. 3:5).
Jesus is our second Adam—Scripture is explicit on this point. Christ is the bridegroom—there is no room for discussion on this point either. So who does Adam marry? She shall be called Eve, because she is the mother of all the living (Gen. 3:20). Who is this woman, this new Eve? She, too, is the mother of us all—the glorious Christian Church. “But Jerusalem which is above is free, which is the mother of us all” (Gal. 4:26).
Individually, we believers are the sons and daughters of the second Adam and second Eve. The Church is our mother, and Christ is our Father. Corporately, gathered together in worship we are the bride of Christ, and He is our husband.
Unlike our first husband, unlike our first father, the Lord Jesus has not abdicated. He has not abandoned the priestly duty that was assigned to Him—the priestly duty of guarding and protecting His wife, and all the children God gave to Him. Collectively, we are that wife, and individually we are those children. This is why the Lord Jesus is able to say, “Behold I and the children which God hath given me” (Heb. 2:13).
Some may object to all of this by saying, “Genesis no where explicitly says that Adam and Eve are types of Christ and His Church.” This much is true. But God has made it abundantly clear in the full revelation of inspired Scripture. It should be noted that Genesis no where says that Adam is our covenant head, that we sinned in him, that we are all culpable in his transgression, that our death is directly tied to his, or that he was a figure for the Greater Adam who would come. But once again, God has made it abundantly clear in the full revelation of inspired Scripture. The immediate context is the only place to begin. But it is never the place to end. The redemptive Christ is always present. The God who breathed out the words of the text also breathed out the Word into the text. Find Him.