Progressive Revelation in the Bible – Part 1

 In Earl McClure

Recently I have pursued a study of how Jesus Christ appears in the Old Testament books of the Bible. Through Creation, Prophecies, Types, etc., Jesus can be found throughout the Old Testament Scriptures. This study led me to read a book by J. Sidlow Baxter entitled The Master Theme of the Bible (Tyndale House Publishers, © 1973) where Baxter shows the Lord Jesus Christ as that master theme. 

In his first chapter he demonstrates the idea of progressive revelation (his term is “the progress of doctrine”) through the Bible from beginning to end. Baxter takes 10 passages from the Bible to illustrate how the texts, over a period of time, locations, authors, and situations, add new revelation, new information, new understanding to a topic, in this case that Jesus is the Lamb of God. 

Over the next five weeks I want to discuss this idea of progressive revelation to show how awesome our Savior is by discussing what the Bible reveals to us about Him. I will look at two texts in each post based upon the passages used by Baxter in his book. Let’s get started.

The first passage is from Genesis 4.

In the course of time Cain brought to the LORD an offering of the fruit of the ground, and Abel also brought of the firstborn of his flock and of their fat portions. And the LORD had regard for Abel and his offering, but for Cain and his offering he had no regard. So Cain was very angry, and his face fell. The LORD said to Cain, “Why are you angry, and why has your face fallen? If you do well, will you not be accepted?” (Genesis 4:3-7a ESV)

In this story of Cain and Abel both knew to give offerings to the LORD. We don’t know why they had to bring offerings because the passage doesn’t say, but both knew they had to do something. Presumably God told them directly or perhaps He told their parents Adam and Eve who told them, but still they knew. In addition, God must have said that in this situation the offering was to be from the flock, not from the ground, because He accepted Abel’s offering but He refused Cain’s (“If you do well, will you not be accepted?”) The lesson Baxter draws from this passage is the necessity of the Lamb. At this opening stage of revelation concerning the Lamb of God we don’t know anything except that a lamb is required, that a lamb is indispensable. 

Next, Baxter moves to Genesis 22.

And Abraham took the wood of the burnt offering and laid it on Isaac his son. And he took in his hand the fire and the knife. So they went both of them together. And Isaac said to his father Abraham, “My father!” And he said, “Here I am, my son.” He said, “Behold, the fire and the wood, but where is the lamb for a burnt offering?” Abraham said, “God will provide for himself the lamb for a burnt offering, my son.” So they went both of them together … But the angel of the LORD called to him from heaven and said, “Abraham, Abraham!” And he said, “Here I am.” He said, “Do not lay your hand on the boy or do anything to him, for now I know that you fear God, seeing you have not withheld your son, your only son, from me.” And Abraham lifted up his eyes and looked, and behold, behind him was a ram, caught in a thicket by his horns. And Abraham went and took the ram and offered it up as a burnt offering instead of his son. (Genesis 22:6-8, 11-13 ESV)

Here we have the well-known story of the near sacrifice of Isaac at the hand of his father Abraham. After Abraham and Sarah’s meager attempt to provide the covenant heir (which resulted in the birth of Ishmael), God provided the true heir, Isaac. In v. 2 God tells Abraham to “Take your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love” to sacrifice him. Notice how God describes him: “your son”, “your only son”, “Isaac”, “whom you love”. There is no doubt God is referring to the covenant son provided by God yet He says to offer him up. Isaac was no dummy; he caught on right away that they had taken wood, fire, and knife, but no lamb. When he questioned his father about it Abraham replied that God will provide the lamb. Baxter says that the lesson here is God’s provision of the lamb. Our human efforts are futile; we must rely on the LORD to provide. 

In this post we learned that a lamb is necessary, and that that lamb is provided by God. In the next post we will look at two more passages (from Exodus and Leviticus) that give additional revelation about the Lamb of God.


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