Thursday, February 17, 2011

The Gospel Coalition and Irenaeus on Christ in the OT (1)

Over at the Gospel Coalition site there is an essential starter kit for preaching Christ from the OT made up of resources by contemporary and modern authors.  It is worthwhile to turn back the clock to the second century and to look at Irenaeus of Lyon's essential starter kit for knowing Christ in the OT as he wrestled with the Gnostic heretics.

Throughout the following extracts from Irenaeus two foundational points are being made.

1.  With regard to revelation, it is impossible to know God aright unless he is revealed to us in and by the Son.  This foundational truth is not something that holds true from the time of the incarnation.

2.  The Son appears personally in the OT to reveal God, to reveal the gospel beforehand through the prophets, to be the object of faith, and to rescue his people.

As far as Irenaeus was concerned the OT patriarchs could not have penned a volume with the title The Jesus We Never Knew.

Here are some extracts from his magisterial work Against Heresies (from whence this blog derives its title):
Here [Psalm 110:1] represents to us the Father addressing the Son; he who gave him the inheritance of the heathen, and subjected to his all his enemies.  Since, therefore, the Father is truly Lord, and the Son truly Lord, the Holy Spirit has fitly designated them by the title of Lord.
And again, referring to the destruction of the Sodomites, the Scripture says, "Then the LORD rained upon Sodom and Gomorrah fire and brimstone from the LORD out of heaven" [Gen. 19:24].  For it here points out that the Son, who had been talking with Abraham, had received power to judge the Sodomites for their wickedness.
And this does declare the same truth [Psalm 45:6-7]...For the Spirit designates both of them by the name of God--both him who is anointed as Son, and him who does anoint, that is, the Father. (Book 3: Ch. 6: Sect. 1)
And again, when the Son speaks to Moses, He says, "I am come down to deliver this people" [Ex. 3:14].  For it is he who descended and ascended for the salvation of men.  Therefore God has been declared through the Son, who is in the Father, and has the Father in himself. (3:6:2)
On John the Baptist's relationship to Christ and the OT prophets he wrote:
For all the other prophets preached the advent of the paternal Light, and desired to be worthy of seeing him whom they preached; but John did both announce [the advent] beforehand, in a like manner as did the others, and actually saw him when he came, and pointed him out, and persuaded many to believe on him, so that he did himself hold the place of both prophet and apostle. (3:11:3)
On the personal appearance of Christ in the OT Irenaeus says the following:
And the Word of God himself used to converse with the ante-Mosaic patriarchs, in accordance with his divinity and glory; but for those under the law he instituted a sacerdotal and liturgical service. (3:11:8)
Christ himself, therefore, together with the Father, is the God of the living, who spake to Moses, and who was also manifested to the fathers. (4:5:2)
[Abraham]...followed the Word of God, walking as a pilgrim with the Word, that he might [afterwards] have his abode with the Word. (4:5:2)
Since, therefore, Abraham was a prophet, and saw in the Spirit the day of the Lord's coming, and the dispensation of his suffering, through whom both he himself and all who, following the example of his faith, trust in God, should be saved, he rejoiced exceedingly.  The Lord, therefore, was not unknown to Abraham, whose day he desired to see; nor again was the Lord's Father, for he had learned from the Word of the Lord, and believed him. (4:5:5)
"No man knoweth the Son, but the Father; nor the Father, save the Son, and those to whom the Son shall reveal him" [Matt. 11:27]. For "shall reveal" was not said with reference to the future alone, as if then [only] the Word had begun to manifest the Father when he was born of Mary, but it applies indifferently throughout all time. (4:6:7)
With reference to John 8:56 he wrote:
For not alone upon Abraham's account did he say these things, but also that he might point out how all who have known God from the beginning, and have foretold the advent of Christ, have received the revelation from the Son himself; who also in the last times was made visible and passible... (4:7:2)
And here are some more extracts:
Therefore have the Jews departed from God, in not receiving the Word, by imagining that they could know the Father [apart] by himself, without the Word, that is, without the Son; they being ignorant of that God who spake in human shape to Abraham, and again to Moses, saying "I have surely seen the affliction of my people in Egypt, and I have come down to deliver them" [Exodus 3:7-8]. (4:7:4)
"For if you had believed Moses, you would also have believed me; for he wrote of me" [John 5:39-40] [saying this] no doubt, because the Son of God is implanted everywhere throughout his writings: at one time, indeed, speaking with Abraham, when about to eat with him; at another time with Noah, giving him the dimensions [of the ark]; at another, inquiring after Adam; at another, bringing down judgement upon the Sodomites; and again, when he became visible, and directs Jacob on his journey, and speaks with Moses from the bush.  And it would be endless to recount [the occasions] upon which the Son of God is shown forth by Moses. [4:10:1]


Mike said...

Very much appreciate this post Martin.

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