The third section of According to Plan by Graeme Goldsworthy is the most extensive, and understandably so.
Here, Goldsworthy leaves behind the questions of why and how biblical theology is done and turns to the pressing issue of what biblical theology actually looks like.
What shape does it have?
What do we discover when we approach the theology of the Bible in the way that Goldsworthy has laid out?
The central section of According to Plan connects the dots of the Bible’s theology.
Interestingly enough, Goldsworthy does not begin with the creation story described in Genesis 1. He starts off with the gospel as the entry point to understanding Scripture: “Jesus is our starting point for all true knowledge, and therefore for theology. He is the goal toward which we move” (87).
Goldsworthy’s attempt to begin theology with the gospel is the outworking of his earlier statement that our entry point into studying the Scripture rightly is through the gospel message that brings us to a personal encounter with Jesus Christ.
Having defined the gospel and its relevance for understanding the rest of Scripture, Goldsworthy turns his attention to the main parts of the biblical narrative. Much of his presentation centers upon the truths about God, man, the world, and God’s kingdom that are expressed in Genesis and Exodus. The reason he spends so much time in the first two books of the Bible is because of the great number of truths about God and the world that are revealed here.
As Goldsworthy progresses through the Old Testament, he ends each chapter with a brief summary of the main point in the storyline, as well as a list of main themes and key words. In his effort to connect the Old Testament narrative to its fulfillment in Christ, Goldsworthy includes events recounted in the New Testament that are foreshadowed at different points in the Old.
For example, in the section on God’s creation of the world, he mentions three themes that will find fuller revelation in the scheme of salvation history later on in the Bible: Adam (fulfilled by Christ as the Last Adam), Creation (pointing to New Creation), and heavens and earth (the new heavens and earth). Breaking down each section into a summary is a helpful way of keeping track of the biblical Storyline.
As Goldsworthy continues through the Scriptures, he shows how the revelation of God is progressive. We see God’s choice of Abraham, God’s purpose in calling out the people of Israel from slavery, the purpose of the Law, and the establishment of the kingdom in Israel. He incorporates the wisdom books (Proverbs, Job and Ecclesiastes) and the Psalms into a chapter called “The Life of Faith” which concentrates on the life of the children of Israel in the Promised Land.
Goldsworthy devotes several chapters to the prophets, emphasizing the conditional nature of the covenant and Israel’s transgression of the Law. He points out the “pattern of redemption” seen throughout Israel’s history. He describes God’s punishment of Israel by sending them into exile. And though many of the Israelites return from exile by the end of the Old Testament, the great promises that God has made to his people have yet to be fulfilled.
Goldsworthy brings his treatment of the Old Testament to a close by pointing ahead to the hope of the Jews that God will one day act to bring about his kingdom and the salvation of his people (199).
As he begins his section on the New Testament, Goldsworthy examines the Gospels by showing how they portray Jesus as God in the flesh. He also shows how Jesus represents the true people of God, the very intention of God for humanity from the beginning of time. Likewise, Jesus is the new creation, the new temple that embodies the new created order (201-09).
The rest of the central section of Goldsworthy’s book focuses upon the spread of the new creation detailed in the book of Acts. He demonstrates how the kingdom of God comes “by the Holy Spirit taking the word about Christ into all the world, through the preaching of the disciples” (213).
In examining the New Testament epistles, Goldsworthy shows how this new creation takes place in us now through our union with Christ, a theological reality that includes vital doctrines like justification by faith (219-21).
Finally, Goldsworthy points ahead to the not-yet-fulfilled future that awaits believers in the new creation (232).
According to Plan ends with a practical exercise in applying the theology of the Bible. Goldsworthy chooses two unrelated topics (“Knowing God’s Will” and “Life after Death”), and then shows how one might use the discipline of biblical theology in order to find the Bible’s teaching on this subject.
We should start by connecting the topic to the gospel. Then, we should investigate the biblical words related to the subject, investigate the various strata of biblical teaching, and arrive at practical conclusions (237-44).
Tomorrow, I will interact with some of the points in Goldsworthy’s book.