My granddaughter Katie loves to bake. But whenever she gets all the ingredients out, her younger brother invariably sidles up to her and asks, “Can I have a taste?” To keep him at bay, she teasingly asks, “Would you like two fresh eggs?” Naturally he will have none of it. She continues, “How about some flour, or a teaspoon of vanilla? Again, he knows better than to take her up on the offer. He wants cake.
The same approach is needed in handling Scripture: In order to see the whole picture of God’s plan, we can’t take the parts on their own. We need to understand the unity of the Bible to fully appreciate each element.
It’s difficult to speak of Scripture as having a definite “center” today, because our world likes to believe there is no such thing as absolute truth. Yet, contrary to the general (and incorrect) consensus of the moment, the way in which Scripture came together is the strongest argument for the unity and sureness of the Bible (the beautiful and completed cake, if you will). Moreover, since Scripture comes from the heart and mind of God, we can presume He has a purpose, a unifying concept that gives the Bible structure and provides it a grand conclusion.
In order to see the whole picture of God’s plan, we can’t take the parts on their own. We need to understand the unity of the Bible to fully appreciate each element.
From the human point of view, such a prospect—obtaining a single plan from a book that involved some 39 to 40 writers who wrote in three different languages (Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek) to create 66 different books on three separate continents (Africa, Asia, and Europe)—seems impossible. In addition, a book written over a span of approximately 1,500 years by writers who, for the most part, didn’t know each other, should have had very little chance of maintaining continuity. Yet that’s exactly what the Bible proves to be: one continuous story. In fact, we’re instructed in 1 Corinthians 2:13 that these various writers were taught in words by the Holy Spirit as they wrote. Thus, there was a living assimilation between the writers’ backgrounds, gifts, vocabulary, and experiences and what the Spirit “taught” them as they wrote—making the seemingly impossible possible.
Though the Bible has many lessons to teach us, there’s a core truth around which everything else is built. I believe the apostle Paul best articulated it when he was on trial for his life in Acts 26:6-7: “And now I am standing trial for the hope of the promise made by God to our fathers; the promise to which our twelve tribes hope to attain, as they earnestly serve God night and day. And for this hope, O King, I am being accused by Jews” (emphasis added).
In his appeal to King Agrippa, Paul didn’t cite a number of predictions scattered throughout the Old Testament. Instead, he saw the whole of Scripture encapsulated in “the promise” and recognized it as a certainty, for the definite article “the” was almost always included. Moreover, it wasn’t plural but usually a singular “promise”—the one definite covenant made between God and man that found fulfillment in Jesus the Messiah, who died, was buried, and rose again.
A book written over a span of 1,500 years should have had very little chance of maintaining continuity. Yet the Bible proves to be one continuous story.
The New Testament uses the term “promise” more than 40 times as a way of both summarizing what God had done before Christ and anticipating what He would do after His Son’s incarnation. Hebrews 6:13-14 equates this definite, singular promise with the one God made with Abraham. Paul argued the same in Romans 4:13-14, declaring that Abraham received the promise: He would be heir of the world, and this would come not by his works but by faith.
The promise is the plan of God, first declared to Eve about a coming “seed” (Gen. 3:15). Then it was revealed to Shem that God would “dwell” with mortals; then to Abraham that in his seed all the nations of the earth “[would] be blessed;” and finally to David that his kingdom would last forever, for this would be the “instruction for all humanity” (Gen. 9:27, Gen. 12:3, 2 Sam. 7:16-19 NLT, alternate translation).
It is clear that this promise-plan of God would center on the “seed of the woman” of Genesis 3:15—one who would be no less than Jesus the Messiah. He not only would be a transcendent Lord but would also live in the midst of His people. He’d be given a throne, and His reign would never end. Moreover, it would be by belief in Him alone that every human on planet earth could be saved and blessed for all eternity. In turn, God would give Abraham’s seed a permanent place on earth in Israel. They would be His people, and He would be their God.
Sadly, however, some wrongly believe that the promises made to Abraham and his seed ended because of their unbelief and continued obstinacy. Such people would argue that those same promises now belong to the believing church—that Israel has lost her position of blessing, her right to the land of promise, and her key place in the events established by our Lord.
Such a conclusion, however, misses the point that when God made His promise and “cut” the covenant with Abraham in Genesis 12:2-3 and Genesis 15:1-6, it was God alone who passed between the halved animals and obligated Himself to fulfill the vow He made. Abraham did not, and so the longevity of this promise had nothing to do with his faithfulness.
God cannot and will not lie. He will fulfill the word He pledged in Genesis 15. That is the beating heart of Scripture. And as long as the sun and the moon are still shining, so shall the promise-plan of God endure.