The Oracles of God

Though Paul does not mention this gift in Romans 9, he earlier noted that Israel was entrusted with “the very words of God” (Romans 3:2). Israel was the keeper of the record of God’s mighty acts.

Scripture does not “drop out of the sky.” On the contrary, the collection of holy writings called “Scripture” grow and develop over time within the course of Israel’s history. Scripture is produced as part of the process of redemptive history and intimately connected to Israel’s status as a covenant nation.

God used covenantal messengers to guide Israel. The Torah provided the foundational covenant history and covenantal instruction. The prophets called people to faithful obedience to the covenant, warned Israel of its failures, and encouraged Israel with hopeful promises. Prophets, among others, recorded covenantal histories that bore witness to the history of God’s relationship with Israel. The singers and sages of Israel provided liturgy and wisdom for life in Israel.

The holy writings emerged throughout the history of Israel as a way of grounding Israel in its past, guiding it in the present, and providing hope for the future. They are bound up with Israel’s history and Israel’s status as the covenant people of God. The Scriptures are God’s unique gift to Israel and through Israel to the nations.

These are the “holy Scriptures” which Paul commended to Timothy as “able to” make him “wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.” These are the texts that Paul described as “breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that” every person called by “God may be competent, equipped for every good work” (2 Timothy 3:12-17).

Scripture, in general, serves a covenantal function which is expressed through diverse genres and occasions. Scripture essentially administers the divine covenant with God’s people and is thus normative for how God’s people live in covenant with God in the different cultures and situations in which people then lived.

Scripture bears witness to, interprets, and applies the saving work of God to the people of God. It narrates the redemptive work of God in Christ, interprets that work for us, and applies its meaning and significance to its original hearers. Though Scripture was written to those who received it in the past, it was also written for future believers.

As covenant people, we are guided by the covenant witness of Scripture in its regulatory and relational functions. It bears witness to God’s acts of redemptive love and calls us into relationship with God. It instructs and guides the people of God; it cast a vision for how to live out our identity as the representatives of God in the world. This witness, as we have it now in the whole of the prophetic and apostolic witness, is rooted in the saving acts of God that inaugurate a new creation. Jesus himself is the witness to God’s saving work and the embodiment of the covenantal principles that shape all service to God. Jesus, as incarnate God, is the image of God, the true Israel, the true human. He is the fundamental pattern for our life before God. And Scripture, ultimately, bears witness to him, the redeemer of Israel and the mediator between God and humanity.

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