Scripture contains many genres: history, law, poetry, letters, prophecy, just to name a few. Understanding scripture in these ways is important. The historic, poetic, and other senses of scripture can teach us much about God. Still the full meaning of every scripture is only found in the person of Christ. This is not unlike stereograms, those pictures you stare at or look at with crossed eyes until the 3D picture pops out of the 2D picture. Sure, the 2D picture is often ornate, colorful, and fun to look at in its own right. But it isn’t an end in itself. It is the medium for something more.
Jesus opened the minds of the first disciples so they could perceive Him in the Bible (Luke 24:45-46). We also need our minds opened so we can understand how the scriptures depict Jesus. The letter of the Bible is like a curtain that can only be drawn back by the Spirit of God. Unless that happens we may study the Bible, hear teaching, or talk with friends about scripture yet not perceive Jesus (2 Cor. 3:14-17). It isn’t that such disciplines are unimportant, just that they are insufficient by themselves.
Let’s take a familiar example. Circumcision was required by God’s law (Gen.17:11-14). Historically, we can learn that God commanded this practice. It was a sign of God’s covenant and separated His people from pagan nations. On another level, this teaches us about holiness. Our relationship with God makes us different. This difference is reflected in who we are and what we do. That said, Christ reveals circumcision’s full significance. (Colossians 2:11-13). The cross separated us from our fleshly nature just as circumcision cuts away flesh. Based on the circumcision of the cross, the Holy Spirit begins to put our sinful behavior to death (Rom. 8:13). Changed lives are a sign of our new covenant relationship with the Lord.
Notice that perceiving Jesus in circumcision didn’t change the historical facts surrounding it or the reality of holiness it represents. When the Spirit opens our minds to Christ in the Bible, He never needs to distort other ways of understanding the text. Not seeing Jesus, however, led some in the first century to believe genital surgery was a critical part of holiness (Acts 15:1). Perhaps we don’t struggle over the issue of circumcision these days. But all too often we see things in scripture we must fulfill instead of seeing Jesus who fulfilled all scripture.
Because other senses of scripture are important, it is beneficial to learn and fellowship about them. The Bible is full of wonderful history, life principles, ways to pray, miracles, marriage, archaeology, prophetic visions, and many other topics. There is nothing wrong with appreciating these things. Still, my deep and abiding prayer is that our eyes would be opened to Him who is the fullness of all these things.