R.C. Sproul

Prayer and God’s Sovereignty

Written by R. C. Sproul |
Monday, February 6, 2023
So the first point in response to the question, “Does prayer change things?” is simply this: Yes, indeed prayer changes things. If nothing else, it changes us. When we come into the presence of God in conversation with him, one of the immediate benefits of that conversation is what happens to us.

One of those perennial questions that all Calvinists face from time to time and that you hear quite frequently is: If God is sovereign, then why pray? If that is the case, would not prayer be a superfluous activity, at best an exercise in meditation or some form of inspiring soliloquy? I am sure we have all had to wrestle with this question at times. Moreover, I think that it is not unlike a similar question that Calvinists also hear frequently. That is, if God is sovereign and predestination is true, why should we be involved in evangelism?
Why Pray? Why Evangelize?
In seminary I had the privilege of being in one of Dr. John Gerstner’s classrooms when he was holding forth on the subject of predestination. After he had given his lecture, he began his Socratic method of discourse and started to ask us questions. That class was a seminar of about eighteen men, and we were in a semicircle. I was sitting on one end, and he started on the other end by asking that gentleman, “Now, sir, if predestination is true, why should we be involved in evangelism?”
The student looked up at Gerstner and said, “I don’t know.”
Gerstner went down the line to the next fellow, who said, “Beats me.”
The next student said, “I always wondered about that myself, Dr. Gerstner.”
Our professor kept going around the semicircle, knocking us off one by one, and I was sitting over there in the corner feeling like Socrates in one of Plato’s dialogues. Plato had raised the difficult question. He had heard from all the lesser stars. Now Socrates was to give the lofty answer to the impenetrable mysteries of the question that had been raised. I was frightened. Finally Dr. Gerstner came to me. “Well, Mr. Sproul, if predestination is true, why should we be involved in evangelism?”
I slid down in the chair and prefaced my answer with all kinds of apologies, saying to him, “Well, Dr. Gerstner, I know this isn’t what you’re looking for, and I know that you must be seeking for some profound, intellectual response which I am not prepared to give. But just in passing, one small point that I think we ought to notice here is that God does command us to be involved in evangelism.”
Dr. Gerstner laughed and said, “Yes, Mr. Sproul. God does command us to be involved in evangelism. And of course, Mr. Sproul, what could be more insignificant than the fact that the Lord of glory, the Savior of your soul, the Lord God omnipotent, has commanded you to be involved in evangelism?” I got the point in a hurry! So it is with prayer. One reason to pray is that we are commanded to pray. But in addition to being commanded to pray we are also given the privilege of prayer. Prayer for the Christian is both a duty and an unspeakable privilege.
About ten years ago, I had an experience with another theologian—Dr. Nicole—regarding this question. At that time, whenever students at Gordon College asked me questions about prayer, I would say to them, “Well, the way I do it is this: I preach like a Calvinist, but I pray like an Arminian.” I said this in Dr. Nicole’s presence, and I looked at him to see what he would say. He looked at me in his warm fashion and said, “Brother Sproul, I think perhaps that God would be more pleased if you would preach like a Calvinist and pray like a Calvinist as well.” I did not forget that! And I thought I had better learn what it means to pray like a Calvinist.
When I began to pay attention to what Calvin had written on the question of prayer, I noticed something very unusual. As I turned to the Institutes, I found that Calvin prefaces his treatment of the doctrine of election and predestination (Book III, chapter 21) with a lengthy treatment of the nature and significance of prayer. I have always required that students in my courses on Calvin read Book III, chapter 20, of the Institutes before they even start the first chapter of Book I, so that they should be disarmed of the host of prejudices that surround the figure of John Calvin and that they might see the warmth of his heart and the passion that he had to converse in dialogue with his Creator and Lord.
Let me give a brief quotation from that chapter. Calvin writes, “But, someone will say, does God not know, even without being reminded, both in what respect we are troubled and what is expedient for us, so that it may seem in a sense superfluous that he should be stirred up by our prayers—as if he were drowsily blinking or even sleeping until he is aroused by our voice?
But they who thus reason do not observe to what end the Lord instructed his people to pray, for he ordained it not so much for his sake as for ours.”[1]
So the first point in response to the question, “Does prayer change things?” is simply this: Yes, indeed prayer changes things. If nothing else, it changes us. When we come into the presence of God in conversation with him, one of the immediate benefits of that conversation is what happens to us.
The essence of prayer is adoration, confession, and thanksgiving. What happens to a person who comes daily and regularly to the throne of grace with a broken and a contrite heart? Does God’s forgiveness change him? What happens to the heart that experiences gratitude and in the posture of prayer is able to recall what God has done for him? Does a grateful heart change a person? Certainly. People are changed through spending time with God.
Excerpt taken from Chapter 11: Prayer and God’s Sovereignty by R.C. Sproul, Our Sovereign God edited by James Montgomery Boice.
[1] John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion, ed. John T. McNeill and trans. Ford Lewis Battles (Philadelphia: The Westminster Press, 1960), 852.
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A Rose Is a Rose

Written by R.C. Sproul |
Saturday, December 17, 2022
Islam has no cross and no resurrection, articles of the faith that are of the essence of Christianity and of ultimate importance to the plan of the God of the Bible. Mohammed made no atonement for our sins when he died. And when he died, he stayed dead. There are other crucial differences we could explore of how God is understood in orthodox Christianity and how He is understood in orthodox Islam. It is enough for now to say that Allah and Yahweh are not the same. One is the living God; the other is an idol.

A rose is a rose is a rose. This dictum reinforces the adage that a rose by any other name is still a rose. The idea is that the essence of the rose is not conditioned by what name is attached to it. It is its res, not its nomina, that determines what it is. In different languages, the same flower is known by different names, but it is still the same flower.
When we apply this idea to theology things get a bit more complicated. Indeed the rose adage has been transferred indiscriminately to religion in order to create a theological concept. The concept is: “God by any other name is still God.” Now certainly, it is true that the immutable essence of God is not changed by the alteration of His name. In English, we may say “God,” in German “Gott,” in Greek “Theos,” yet all these names or words are used to point to the same Deity.
Beyond this, however, things get murky. It is a quantum leap to go from saying that God by any other name is still God, to saying that all the great religions in the world believe in the same Being though they call Him different names.
This irrational leap is prodded by the popular analogy of the mountain. This analogy notes that their are many roads up the mountain. Some progress on a more direct route, while others wind about on more circuitous roads, but sooner or later they all arrive at the same place, at the top of the mountain.
Do all roads lead to God?
So, it is argued, there are many roads that lead to God. They may be different routes but they all end up in the same place—with God Himself. That is, the differing roads indicate no difference in the God who is found. God’s being, then, becomes the lowest (or highest) common denominator of all religions.
The road analogy is buttressed by the democratic truism that all religions are equal under the law. The fallacy in this axiom is thinking that just because all religions enjoy equal tolerance under the civil law, they therefore are all equally valid. That might be true if there were no God, but then it would be better to say that with respect to their ultimate affirmation they are all equally invalid.
To argue that all religions ultimately believe in the same God is the quintessential nonsense statement. Even a cursory examination of the content of different religions reveals this. The nature of the Canaanite deity Baal differs sharply from the nature of the biblical God. They are not remotely the same. This sharp distinction is also seen when comparing the God of Israel with the gods and goddesses of Roman, Greek, or Norse mythology.
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Songs from Exile

Written by R.C. Sproul |
Wednesday, November 16, 2022
When the church is paganized there is no need for walls or gates in the city of God. Then the church doesn’t need to worry about singing the Lord’s song—it can sing the songs of the pagan culture because there is no longer a strange and foreign land.

In exile the people of Israel faced the question: “How do you sing the Lord’s song in a strange and foreign land?” The question is similar to that faced by contemporary American Christians. Ours is a spiritual exile as we confront a culture and government increasingly hostile to Christianity.
We look to Nehemiah for clues to guide our own pilgrimage in difficult times. Nehemiah was grief-stricken by the news of the condition of Jerusalem. The walls were broken down and its gates burned with fire. His first emotion over the sad loss of his heritage was grief. It was not bitterness or anger. Nehemiah wept and mourned as Jesus would later weep over the same city.
In his grief, Nehemiah moved to the next step, prayer and fasting. His prayer was first of all a prayer of adoration for the majestic awe of God and for His faithfulness to His people: “O great and awesome God, You who keep Your covenant and mercy with those who love You and observe Your commandments.”
Even in exile, Nehemiah praised God for His covenant faithfulness. Then the focus of his prayer turned to repentance, pleading with God to forgive the sins of his own people, acknowledging that they had brought exile upon themselves.
Nehemiah was a cup-bearer to the king. He served in a pagan government as a believer in God. His vocation was that of a servant. He was humble and respectful to the king, but proper fear of his king did not stop him from acting to save his people. He prayed to God and made a request of the king, asking for permission to go to Jerusalem to rebuild it. He also asked for letters that he might present to lesser governors for safe conduct and even a grant for building materials.
Not all the pagan governors were sanguine toward Nehemiah and his plans. Indeed, some were fiercely resistant to them. When Sanballat the Horonite and Tobiah the Ammonite official heard of it, they were deeply disturbed that a man had come to seek the well-being of the children of Israel (Neh. 2:10). But there is nothing unusual about this as it is a common pagan reaction to the mission of the church in any age.
When Nehemiah set about the task of rebuilding his enemies laughed at him and despised him. Nehemiah, though, did not let his critics determine his agenda. He was polite but firm in his response to them.
When Nehemiah’s pagan enemies received word that he had rebuilt the walls (but the doors were not yet hung on the gates), they invited him to meet with them in a special “audience.” Nehemiah had no time for this sort of thing, knowing the plans of the enemy were evil. He replied to Sanballat and his cronies, “Why should the work cease while I leave it and go down to you?” Sanballat then sent an open letter accusing Nehemiah of a seditious attempt to become a king and other false charges. Nehemiah sent back a message denying the allegations, noting that the charges were but a thinly veiled form of intimidation.
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Fueling Reformation

Written by R.C. Sproul |
Thursday, November 3, 2022
It is in the gospel and nowhere else that God has given His power unto salvation. If we want reformation, we have to start with ourselves. We have to start bringing the gospel itself out of darkness, so that the motto of every reformation becomes post tenebras lux—“after darkness, light.” Luther declared that every generation must declare freshly the gospel of the New Testament. He also said that anytime the gospel is clearly and boldly proclaimed, it will bring about conflict.

I’m always puzzled when I see church billboards announcing a coming revival. They give the times and the dates when the church will be engaged in revival. But I wonder, how can anybody possibly schedule a revival? True revivals are provoked by the sovereign work of God through the stirring of His Holy Spirit in the hearts of people. They happen when the Holy Spirit comes into the valley of dry bones (Ezek. 37) and exerts His power to bring new life, a revivification of the spiritual life of the people of God.
This kind of thing cannot be manipulated by any human program. Historically, no one scheduled the Protestant Reformation. The Welsh revival was not on anyone’s agenda, nor was the American Great Awakening penciled into someone’s date book. These epic events in church history resulted from the sovereign work of God, who brought His power to bear on churches that had become virtually moribund.
But we have to understand the difference between revival and reformation. Revival, as the word suggests, means a renewing of life. When evangelism is a priority in the church, such outreach will often bring about revival. However, these revivals of spiritual life do not always result in reformation. Reformation indicates changing forms of church and society. Revivals grow into reformations when the impact of the gospel begins to change the structures of the culture. Revival can produce a multitude of new Christians, but these new Christians have to grow into maturity before they begin to make a significant impact on the surrounding culture.
Reformation can involve a change for the better. We must not be so naïve as to think that all change is necessarily good. Sometimes when we feel that we are in the doldrums or that progress has been stultified, we cry out for change, forgetting for the moment that change may be regressive rather than progressive. If I drink a vial of poison, it will change me, but not for the better. Nevertheless, change is often good.
In our day, we have seen the rise of what has been called the “New Calvinism,” which tends to focus primarily on the so-called five points of Calvinism. This movement within the church has attracted a great deal of attention, even in the secular media.
Yet it would be wise to not identify Calvinism exhaustively with those five points. Rather, the five points function as a pathway or a bridge to the entire structure of Reformed theology. Charles Spurgeon himself argued that Calvinism is merely a nickname for biblical theology. He and many other titans of the past understood that the essence of Reformed theology cannot be reduced to five particular points that arose centuries ago in Holland in response to controversy with the Arminians, who objected to five specific points of the system of doctrine found in historic Calvinism. For the purposes of this article, it might be helpful to look at both what Reformed theology is and is not.
Reformed theology is not a chaotic set of disconnected ideas.
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Faith and Reason

Written by R. C. Sproul |
Monday, September 26, 2022
Because we are convinced that God’s Word is trustworthy and that that conviction is a reasonable conviction, we can trust God’s Word even for those things that we cannot see. John Calvin also argued the point that true faith is not believing against evidence. Rather, true faith involves trusting in the evidence that God has amply provided in and through His Word. That faith is not without what Calvin called evidences; rather, it is a faith that surrenders to or acquiesces to the evidences.

In this postmodern culture we have witnessed a fascinating revival of ancient Gnosticism. The Gnostics of antiquity were called by that name because they asserted that they had a superior type of knowledge that surpassed the insights found even in the apostles of the New Testament. They maintained that the insights of the apostles were limited by the natural limitations suffered by human beings tied to rationality. True knowledge, according to these heretics, was found not through reason or sense perception, but through a highly developed mystical intuition. In like manner, in this postmodern world we’ve seen a wide spread rejection of rationality. This rejection of rationality has infiltrated the church with a vengeance. We see frequent attempts to remove the Christian faith from all considerations of rationality. It is being argued today that biblical revelation is only intelligible by intuition or by a particularly sensitive poetic imagination. This carries with it the idea that biblical revelation is unintelligible through reason.
For good cause, the church in recent centuries has had to reject rationalism in its many faceted forms. There is no monolithic philosophy of rationalism; rather, rationalism wears various faces. On the one hand, we think of rationalism as distinct from empiricism with respect to how we come to know what we know. Second, Enlightenment rationalism contrasts reason not with sense perception but with revelation, arguing that revelation is unreasonable and the only truth that can be known is that which can be known by natural reason. The third and most complex form of rationalism is Hegelian rationalism, which defines reason with a capital R, and reality is the unfolding in space and time of ultimate reason. None of these philosophies represents historic Christianity. Christianity is not based on rationalism. However, the rejection of rationalism in the modern church often carries with it the rejection of rationality. This rejection is itself irrational. When we reject humanism, we don’t reject being human. If we reject existentialism, we don’t reject existence. So, if we reject an “ism” attached to reason, it does not mean that we are to reject reason itself.
We must be on our guard and vigilant at every moment against the intrusion of irrationality coming from existential philosophy, neo-orthodox theology, and the resurgence of mysticism set forth in neo-Gnosticism.
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The Pelagian Controversy

Written by R.C. Sproul |
Friday, September 23, 2022
The struggle within the church now is between the Augustinian view and various forms of semi-Pelagianism, which seeks a middle ground between the views of Pelagius and Augustine. Semi-Pelagianism teaches that grace is necessary to achieve righteousness, but that this grace is not imparted to the sinner unilaterally or sovereignly as is maintained by Reformed theology. Rather, the semi-Pelagian argues that the individual makes the initial step of faith before that saving grace is given. Thus, God imparts the grace of faith in conjunction with the sinner’s work in seeking God. It seems a little mixing of grace and works doesn’t worry the semi-Pelagian. 

“Grant what Thou commandest, and command what Thou dost desire.” This passage from the pen of Saint Augustine of Hippo was the teaching of the great theologian that provoked one of the most important controversies in the history of the church, and one that was roused to fury in the early years of the fifth century.
The provocation of this prayer stimulated a British monk by the name of Pelagius to react strenuously against its contents. When Pelagius came to Rome sometime in the first decade of the fifth century, he was appalled by the moral laxity he observed among professing Christians and even among the clergy. He attributed much of this malaise to the implications of the teaching of Saint Augustine, namely that righteousness could only be achieved by Christians with the special help of divine grace.
With respect to Augustine’s prayer, “Oh God, grant what Thou commandest, and command what Thou dost desire,” Pelagius had no problems with the second part. He believed that God’s highest attribute was indeed His righteousness, and from that righteousness He had the perfect right Himself to obligate His creatures to obey Him according to His law. It was the first part of the prayer that exercised Pelagius, in which Augustine asked God to grant what He commands. Pelagius reacted by saying that whatever God commands implies the ability of the one who receives the command to obey it. Man should not have to ask for grace in order to be obedient.
Now, this discussion broadened into further debates concerning the nature of Adam’s fall, the extent of corruption in our humanity that we describe under the rubric “original sin,” and the doctrine of baptism.
It was the position of Pelagius that Adam’s sin affected Adam and only Adam. That is to say, as a result of Adam’s transgression there was no change wrought in the constituent nature of the human race. Man was born in a state of righteousness, and as one created in the image of God, he was created immutably so. Even though it was possible for him to sin, it was not possible for him to lose his basic human nature, which was capable always and everywhere to be obedient. Pelagius went on to say that it is, even after the sin of Adam, possible for every human being to live a life of perfect righteousness and that, indeed, some have achieved such status.
Pelagius was not opposed to grace, only to the idea that grace was necessary for obedience. He maintained that grace facilitates obedience but is not a necessary prerequisite for obedience.
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Taking Thought for Tomorrow

Written by R.C. Sproul |
Sunday, August 28, 2022
The decisions we make today will have consequences tomorrow. This is why I ask my friends and acquaintances to, at the very least, get informed about the possible perils of the days ahead. To be uninformed is to be unprepared. My concern is that most people will be like me in that they will take no cautionary action until they move through the stages of awareness-concern-alarm. Please do not assume that history is linear and uniform. Nothing disproves that assumption like history itself.

I’m too busy enjoying summer to think about winer, the grasshopper told the the ant. —The Grasshopper and the Ant, by Aseop
My father’s favorite Bible verse was Jesus’ admonition in the Sermon on the Mount, “Take no thought for your life, what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink” (Matt. 6:25, NKJV). He never tired of quoting this text to me when I was a boy. Yet my father did take thought for the future. He bought life insurance, fire insurance, health insurance, etc. He also had a savings account. He preached a philosophy of delayed gratification. With my weekly allowance, he insisted that I first take 10 percent of it and give it back to God. Then he required that I take a second 10 percent and put it in savings. Then he said I could spend the remaining 80 percent on my special needs and wants.
Was his philosophy contrary to his favorite Bible verse? By no means. He understood that what Jesus was teaching was not a prohibition against prudence but a message against the anxiety that robs us of our trust in the good providence of God. The providence of God, among other things, has to do with His provision for our needs. “Provision” literally means “to see beforehand.” As God’s creatures, we not only are to trust in His providence, we are to reflect His character by being provident ourselves rather than profligate. The Apostle Paul teaches that the father who fails to provide for his household is worse than an infidel (1 Tim. 5:8). Scripture repeatedly enjoins us to be prudent stewards of the gifts we receive from God.
When God revealed to Joseph that the land would experience seven years of plenty followed by seven years of famine, he spent the seven years of plenty preparing Egypt for the coming famine. As a superb administrator, he prepared storehouses in which grain was preserved for times of emergency. By his actions, not only were the Egyptians able to survive the famine, but Joseph was able to provide his own family with a refuge from the calamity, which, in the providence of God, ensured the survival of His chosen people.
Joseph did not take a simplistic linear or uniformitarian view of history. He understood that history is subject to intrusions of the catastrophic. Like Noah before him, he believed that things would not remain the same but that drastic changes were coming—and he prepared for those changes.
In October, weather forecasters noted the formation of a tropical storm far off in the Atlantic. It was given the name Mitch. No one was too concerned until Mitch picked up force and became a huge hurricane bearing down on the Caribbean. Soon people were boarding up their homes and business establishments, and making preparations for evacuation. Many people in Honduras, Nicaragua, and throughout Central America learned the folly of linear thinking the hard way beneath the wrath of Mitch.
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TULIP and Reformed Theology: Total Depravity

Written by R.C. Sproul |
Friday, August 26, 2022
So what is required for us to be conformed to the image of Christ is not simply some small adjustments or behavioral modifications, but nothing less than renovation from the inside. We need to be regenerated, to be made over again, to be quickened by the power of the Spirit. The only way in which a person can escape this radical situation is by the Holy Spirit’s changing the core, the heart. However, even that change does not instantly vanquish sin. The complete elimination of sin awaits our glorification in heaven.

The doctrine of total depravity reflects the Reformed viewpoint of original sin. That term—original sin—is often misunderstood in the popular arena. Some people assume that the term original sin must refer to the first sin—the original transgression that we’ve all copied in many different ways in our own lives, that is, the first sin of Adam and Eve. But that’s not what original sin has referred to historically in the church. Rather, the doctrine of original sin defines the consequences to the human race because of that first sin.
Virtually every church historically that has a creed or a confession has agreed that something very serious happened to the human race as a result of the first sin—that first sin resulted in original sin. That is, as a result of the sin of Adam and Eve, the entire human race fell, and our nature as human beings since the fall has been influenced by the power of evil. As David declared in the Old Testament, “Oh, God, I was born in sin, and in sin did my mother conceive me” (Ps. 51:5). He was not saying that it was sinful for his mother to have borne children; neither was he saying that he had done something evil by being born. Rather, he was acknowledging the human condition of fallenness—that condition that was part of the experience of his parents, a condition that he himself brought into this world. Therefore, original sin has to do with the fallen nature of mankind. The idea is that we are not sinners because we sin, but that we sin because we are sinners.
In the Reformed tradition, total depravity does not mean utter depravity.
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Our Father

Written by R.C. Sproul |
Thursday, August 25, 2022
Prayer is one of the means God uses to bring about the ends He ordains. That is, God not only ordains ends, He ordains the means He uses to bring about those ends. God doesn’t need our preaching to save His people. Yet He has chosen to work through our preaching. He empowers our human preaching with His own power. In like manner, He has chosen to work through our prayers. He empowers our prayers so that after we pray we can step back and watch Him unleash His power in and through our prayers.

My first class at the Free University of Amsterdam shattered my academic complacency. It was cultural shock, an exercise in contrasts. It started the moment the professor, Dr. G.C. Berkouwer, entered the room. At his appearance, every student stood at attention until he mounted the podium steps, opened his notebook, and silently nodded for the students to be seated. He then began his lecture, and the students, in a holy hush, dutifully listened and wrote notes for the hour. No one ever dared to interrupt or distract the master by presuming to raise his hand. The session was dominated by a single voice—the voice we were all paying to hear.
When the lecture ended, the professor closed his notebook, stepped down from the podium, and hastily left the room, but not before the students once more rose in his honor. There was no dialogue, no student appointments, no gabfest. No student ever spoke to the professor—except during privately scheduled oral exams.
My first such exam was an exercise in terror. I went to the professor’s house expecting an ordeal. But as rigorous as the exam was, it was not an ordeal. Dr. Berkouwer was warm and kind. In avuncular fashion, he asked about my family. He showed great concern for my well-being and invited me to ask him questions.
In a sense, this experience was a taste of heaven. Professor Berkouwer was, of course, mortal. But he was a man of titanic intellect and encyclopedic knowledge. I was not in his home to instruct him or to debate him—I was the student and he was the master. There was hardly anything in the realm of theology he could learn from me. And yet, he listened to me as if he really thought he could learn something from me. He took my answers to his probing questions seriously. It was as if I were a son being questioned by a caring father.
This event is the best human analogy I can come up with to answer the age-old query, “If God is sovereign, why pray?” However, I must confess that this analogy is frail. Though Berkouwer towered above me in knowledge, his knowledge was finite and limited. He was by no means omniscient.
By contrast, when I converse with God, I am not merely talking to a Great Professor in the Sky. I’m talking to one who has all knowledge, one who cannot possibly learn anything from me that He doesn’t already know. He knows everything there is to know, including what’s on my mind.
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Ancient Promises

Written by R. C. Sproul |
Monday, August 1, 2022
Indeed, in the Pentateuch, the entire New Testament is concealed, yet the revelation therein opens a gateway for us to understand all of the rest of the revelation that God provides from Joshua through Revelation. In our day the covenantal structure of redemption is often obscured. What should be plain by even a cursory reading of the Pentateuch is passed off into darkness and replaced by some other structure or framework invented by human speculation. The covenant structure of redemption does not end in the fifth book of the Pentateuch. It continues throughout the Old Testament.
 
“The new is in the old concealed; the old is in the new revealed.” This famous statement by Augustine expresses the remarkable way in which the two testaments of the Bible are so closely interrelated with each other. The key to understanding the New Testament in its fullest is to see in it the fulfillment of those things that were revealed in the background of the Old Testament. The Old Testament points forward in time, preparing God’s people for the work of Christ in the New Testament.
The history of redemption began with creation itself. The book of Genesis, the first book of the Pentateuch, starts with the beginning, or the “genesis,” of the universe as expressed in the revelation of God’s mighty work of creation. The creation of the universe culminated in the narrative of the creation of humanity. This was followed very shortly by humanity’s cataclysmic plunge into ruin as a result of the sin of Adam and Eve. From the third chapter of Genesis through the end of the Bible, the rest of the narrative history is the history of God’s work of redeeming a fallen humanity. Genesis shows that the same God who is the God of creation is also the God of our redemption.
The book of Genesis gives us an overview of the patriarchal period and the covenants that God made with them. They form the foundation for everything that follows in redemptive history. Beginning with Noah and moving toward Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and the sons of Jacob, the story unfolds God’s consistent pattern of redemption, which looks ahead for centuries, as God’s people awaited the ultimate fulfillment of the patriarchal promises. These promises were fulfilled in the person and work of Jesus.
The book of Genesis ends with the children of Israel migrating into Egypt to be rescued by the intervention of Joseph, who ruled as the nation’s prime minister. Exodus opens with the scene having changed from one of benevolent circumstances under Joseph to one of dire circumstances, as the immigrant nation of Israel had been enslaved by Pharaoh. The stirring account in Exodus is the Old Testament, watershed work of divine redemption. It sets forth for us the narrative of the divine rescue of the slaves held captive in Egypt. The captives were redeemed by the triumph of God and His mercy over the strongest military force of this world embodied in Pharaoh and his army. It points forward to an even greater liberation by a greater Mediator from slavery to sin.
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