I have mentioned in this space before how I have been slowly reading through J.C. Ryle’s book ‘Holiness’, which is a volume dedicated to the christian’s sanctification. It is easily one of the best books I’ve ever read, and as I finish up the book, I’m finding some gems that I’d like to share with you all.
In the 20th chapter, Ryle addresses the centrality of Christ in several ways. The verse this chapter is built upon is part of Colossians 3:11, which simply states that “Christ is all.” One of those ways is how Christ is “all” is in the whole of Scripture. Often we forget this – we forget that Christ is the central theme and person and subject of scripture. Ryle gives a beautiful overview of this truth, and I have put this portion of the chapter below for your enjoyment. I’m sure it will be a blessing to you!
Let us understand that “Christ is all” in the inspired books which make up the Bible.
From Chapter 20, ‘Christ is All’, in ‘Holiness’, by J.C. Ryle
In every part of both Testaments, Christ is to be found – dimly and indistinctly at the beginning – more clearly and plainly in the middle – fully and completely at the end – but really and substantially everywhere.
Christ’s sacrifice and death for sinners, and Christ’s kingdom and future glory, are the light we must bring to bear on any book of Scripture we read. Christ’s cross and Christ’s crown are the clue we must hold fast if we would find our way through Scripture difficulties. Christ is the only key that will unlock many of the dark places of the Word. Some people complain that they do not understand the Bible. And the reason is very simple. They do not use the key. To them the Bible is like the hieroglyphics in Egypt. It is a mystery, just because they do not know and employ the key.
(a) It was Christ crucified who was set forth in every Old Testament sacrifice. Every animal slain and offered on an altar was a practical confession that a Saviour was looked for who would die for sinners – a Saviour who should take away man’s sin, by suffering, as his Substitute and Sin-bearer, in his stead, (1 Peter iii. 18.) It is absurd to suppose that an unmeaning slaughter of innocent beasts, without a distinct object in view, could please the eternal God!
(b) It was Christ to whom Abel looked when he offered a better sacrifice than Cain. Not only was the heart of Abel better than that of his brother, but he showed his knowledge of vicarious sacrifice and his faith in an atonement. He offered the firstlings of his flock, with the blood thereof, and in so doing declared his belief that without shedding of blood there is no remission. (Heb. xi. 4.)
(c) It was Christ of whom Enoch prophesied in the days of abounding wickedness before the flood. – “Behold,” he said, “the Lord cometh with ten thousands of His saints, to execute judgment upon all.” (Jude 15.)
(d) It was Christ to whom Abraham looked when he dwelt in tents in the land of promise. He believed that in his seed – in one born of his family – all the nations of the earth should be blessed. By faith he saw Christ’s day, and was glad. (John viii. 56.)
(e) It was Christ of whom Jacob spoke to his sons, as he lay dying. He marked out the tribe out of which He would be born, and foretold that “gathering together” unto Him which is yet to be accomplished. “The sceptre shall not depart from Judah, nor the law-giver from between his feet, until Shiloh come, and unto Him shall the gathering of the people be.” (Gen. xlix. 10.)
(f) It was Christ who was the substance of the ceremonial law which God gave to Israel by the hand of Moses. The morning and evening sacrifice – the continual shedding of blood – the altar – the mercy-seat – the high priest – the passover – the day of atonement – the scapegoat: – all these were so many pictures, types, and emblems of Christ and His work. God had compassion upon the weakness of His people. He taught them “Christ” line upon line, and, as we teach little children, by similitudes. It was in this sense especially that “the law was a schoolmaster to lead” the Jews “unto Christ.” (Gal. iii. 24.)
(g) It was Christ to whom God directed the attention of Israel by all the daily miracles which were done before their eyes in the wilderness. The pillar of cloud and fire which guided them – the manna from heaven which every morning fed them – the water from the smitten rock which followed them – all and each were figures of Christ. The brazen serpent, on that memorable occasion when the plague of fiery serpents was sent upon them, was an emblem of Christ. (1 Cor. x. 4; John iii. 14.)
(h) It was Christ of whom all the Judges were types. Joshua, and David, and Gideon, and Jephthah, and Samson, and all the rest whom God raised up to deliver Israel from captivity – all were emblems of Christ. Weak and unstable and faulty as some of them were, they were set for example of better things in the distant future. All were meant to remind the tribes of that far higher Deliverer who was yet to come.
(i) It was Christ of whom David the king was a type. Anointed and chosen when few gave him honour – despised and rejected by Saul and all the tribes of Israel – persecuted and obliged to flee for his life – a man of sorrow all his life, and yet at length a conqueror – in all these things David represented Christ.
(j) It was Christ of whom all the prophets from Isaiah to Malachi spoke. They saw through a glass darkly. They sometimes dwelt on His sufferings, and sometimes on His glory that should follow. (1 Peter i. 11.) They did not always mark out for us the distinction between Christ’s first coming and Christ’s second coming. Like two candles in a straight line, one behind the other, they sometimes saw both the advents at the same time, and spoke of them in one breath. They were sometimes moved by the Holy Ghost to write of the times of Christ crucified, and sometimes of Christ’s kingdom in the latter days. But Jesus dying, or Jesus reigning, was the thought you will ever find uppermost in their minds.
(k) It is Christ, I need hardly say, of whom the whole New Testament is full. The Gospels are “Christ” living, speaking, and moving among men. The Acts are “Christ” preached, published, and proclaimed. The Epistles are “Christ” written of, explained, and exalted. But all through, from first to last, there is one name above every other, and that is the name of Christ.
I charge every reader of this paper to ask himself frequently what the Bible is to him. Is it a Bible in which you have found nothing more than good moral precepts and sound advice? Or is it a Bible in which you have found Christ? Is it a Bible in which “Christ is all “? If not, I tell you plainly, you have hitherto used your Bible to very little purpose. You are like a man who studies the solar system and leaves out in his studies the sun, which is the centre of all. It is no wonder if you find your Bible a dull book!