Wheaton, IL: Crossway 2019
Biblical Theology has been one of the great re-discoveries within the reformed-evangelical church over the past one hundred years or so. This approach views the Bible as a unity with one coherent message centring on the person and work of Christ. Thus, Biblical Theology trains the reader to understand the content of God’s revelation in the context of its unfolding plan of salvation, rather than come to the Scriptures looking for proof texts.
Crossway Publishing is currently putting together an excellent series entitled “Short Studies in Biblical Theology”. Some of the world’s leading theologians have already contributed (e.g. Graeme Goldsworthy, T. Desmond Alexander, James M. Hamilton, Sidney Greidanus and Guy Prentiss Waters), and the topics covered have included: Marriage, Work, the Lord’s Supper, the Kingdom of God and Covenant.
G. K. Beale has provided the latest contribution, on the topic of “Redemptive Reversals”. The title might sound enigmatic but the subject itself is highly engaging. Basically, Beale shows how the LORD repeatedly relates to people in ironic ways. This happens in both salvation and also in judgement. For example, the prophet Isaiah is told to tell God’s people:
Be ever hearing, but never understanding;Isaiah 6:9-10
Be ever seeing, but never perceiving.
Make the heart of this people calloused;
Make their ears dull and close their eyes.
Otherwise they might see with their eyes,
Hear with their ears,
Understand with their hearts,
And turn and be healed.
The passage has perplexed more than a few people! Why would the LORD be so harsh? Doesn’t He want people to turn to Him and be saved? Beale shows, however, that God is rightly treating people as their sins deserve. Because the Israelites had refused to stop worshipping idols, they would become exactly like them. Just like the blocks of stone and wood they worshipped, they would have eyes that couldn’t see and ears that couldn’t hear (see Psalm 115:4, 8).
Beale shows that the same kind of “ironic reversal” occurs positively as well. So, for example, the apostle Paul argues in 2 Corinthians 1:8-11 that the LORD often orchestrates our circumstances to make us aware of our weakness so that we might truly rely on His strength (see also 2 Cor. 12:7-10).
This is an excellent series and Beale makes a significant contribution to it. There were two aspects in particular which I really appreciated. The first was his depth of Biblical knowledge and theological understanding. Beale is one of the world’s leading New Testament commentators and it shows. But secondly, I valued just as much his consistent personal sharing as to how these truths applied practically and especially in his own life. This adds much to the overall readability of the book.
This is a series to start collecting and benefiting from. If you’re looking for a place to start, look no further than Beale’s volume.