According to Plan Book Review

Goldsworthy, Graeme. According to Plan: The Unfolding Revelation of God in the Bible. Downers Grove, IL: Intervarsity Press, 1991. 251. $19.17.

Author Graeme Goldsworthy serves in the Anglican Church of Australia, lectures in Old Testament and biblical theology at Moore Theological College in Sydney, Australia, and, in According to Plan, has written an excellent introduction to the study of biblical theology. According to Plan is organized into four main parts discussing why we study God’s Word (chap. 1), how we know God through the written Word and the revealed Word of Christ (chaps. 2-7), what biblical theology looks like when we examine how specific passages of Scripture testify to Christ (chaps. 8-25), and where we go with biblical theology as a means of promoting godly living and personal holiness (chap. 26-27). Accordingly, According to Plan serves as an excellent resource for ordinary churchgoers, complete with helpful references, charts, and recommended readings, and is an edifying book for anyone else seeking to comprehend the majesty of God’s Word.

First, Goldsworthy defines biblical theology as examining the unity of the Bible and examining “the relationship of all parts of the Old Testament to the person and work of Jesus Christ” (23). Crucial to this process is the matter of progressive revelation, as the means by which God reveals His saving purposes in distinct stages. These stages create themes and patterns that extend across the whole Bible, including God’s commitment to His creation and even to rebellious humanity (56-7). Examining events such as the Fall and the call of Abraham in light of the gospel event, Goldsworthy identifies a pattern by which God localizes His presence in a particular place in order to dwell with His people (ex., Eden, Canaan). The prophets, meanwhile, indicate that the ultimate fulfillment of God’s promises to Israel lies in an indefinite future that, at last, arrives in the person of Jesus. Jesus Himself is the Kingdom promised by the prophets, the “first fruits” of the new creation after His resurrection, the focus of our worship, and the manifestation of God’s presence according to the kingdom pattern God established in His covenant with Israel and David. Then, after tracing the redemptive arc of Scripture to its climax in Jesus, Goldsworthy applies biblical theology to other areas of Christian living in hopes of elucidating difficult areas with counsel from the whole Bible.

Oftentimes, the Old Testament can seem very murky in its witness to Christ, except in a few passages where the predictions of God’s coming Messiah are so clear we can expect—and often find—a literal fulfillment of these covenant promises (ex., Isaiah 53; Micah 5:2; ). But, it is clear that the disciples understood, albeit poorly, that Jesus was the hope, longing, and fulfillment of God’s covenant promises and expectations for Israel (cf. Matt. 16:13-18). Goldsworthy’s approach to biblical theology tries to explain humbly how Jesus may have interpreted to His disciples on the road to Emmaus “in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself,” that the Christ would have to suffer and be rejected by His people before coming again in power and glory to bring God’s kingdom. (cf. Lk. 24:13-35)

Goldsworthy’s chapter on the Wisdom Literature is an unexpected bonus in a book on biblical theology. Goldsworthy, who has written considerably on the relationship of the wisdom literature to biblical theology, posits that the wisdom writings appear where they do in the canon with Solomon, the wise king over Israel, because at this stage the main elements of God’s kingdom pattern have been established. Because God’s covenant people live under God’s anointed king, they understand the reverent fear of the Lord, God’s power and authority, and God’s steadfast love and mercy as revealed in His covenant with Abraham, Israel, and David (cf. Prov. 1:7; Eccl. 12:13). Utilizing this principle as man’s foundation, man may carefully work through the principle “issues of human existence” and others relating to faith, living, and humble obedience (175). Moreover, the failures of Solomon only reinforce the idea that man must study God’s Word and know God intimately, and portray Christ as the ideal wise king over Israel and the perfect manifestation of God’s wisdom. By tracing patterns of God’s redemptive work from Genesis through Revelation, Goldsworthy that Jesus is the fulfillment of the Old Testament expectations for the coming of God’s coming kingdom and the ideal Davidic king to rule over God’s covenant people.

According to Plan exalts Christ on its every page and explains how every word of Scripture testifies to Jesus as perfect man, perfect God, and the perfect plan of salvation for God’s people. Personally, the book has helped me relate different Scriptural passages in my own devotionals to my need for a Savior and my confidence in God’s redemptive plan. As such, I highly recommend making it a part of your plan to read According to Plan.

providing “the framework within which the regenerated mind works to understand reality” (174). Because God’s covenant people live under God’s anointed king, they have the understanding of the “fear of the Lord” and can make sense of the principle “issues of human existence” (175). Goldsworthy, who has written extensively on the wisdom literature and its relation to biblical theology, provides insights to promote obedience to God’s Word and better reflect our redeemed status before God.

Goldsworthy includes material on relating the wisdom literature to the unified gospel message

Goldsworthy, Graeme. According to Plan: The Unfolding Revelation of God in the

Bible. Downers Grove, IL: Intervarsity Press, 1991. 251. $19.17.

Author Graeme Goldsworthy serves in the Anglican Church of Australia and lectures in Old Testament and biblical theology at Moore Theological College in Sydney, Australia. Goldsworthy wrote According to Plan to introduce biblical theology for ordinary churchgoers and provide a framework for understanding the one unified message of the Bible. While the Bible is an immense book, biblical theology enables readers of God’s Word to comprehend the Bible’s testimony that Jesus is the Christ (cf. Luke 24:44-49) and how each event in Scripture contributes to this understanding. According to Plan examines each of the Bible’s principle events and how they contribute to the central event of the Bible, the incarnation of the Lord’s Messiah and His finished work on behalf of God’s covenant people (21).

First, Goldsworthy defines the process of progressive revelation as the means by which God reveals His saving purposes in distinct stages, each of which creates themes and patterns that extend across the whole Bible (56-7). These themes include God’s commitment to His and, by examining significant events in their redemptive-historical context, Goldsworthy identifies a pattern by which God localizes His presence in a particular place in order to dwell with His people (ex., Eden, the heavenly Jerusalem).

The covenants God makes with representative members of humanity (ex., Noah, Abraham, and David) reflect God’s steadfast love and commitment to all of His creation, including rebellious mankind. God elects Abraham and His descendants and thereby creates a bond that human sin cannot break; gives Israel, by way of Moses, His law to govern their conduct in Canaan; and promises an everlasting dynasty to David to model the faithful conduct God wants of His people. The prophets, meanwhile, indicate that the ultimate fulfillment of these promises is still yet in an indefinite future that, at last, arrives in the person of Jesus. Jesus Himself is the Kingdom promised by the prophets, the “first fruits” of the new creation after His resurrection, the focus of our worship, and the manifestation of God’s presence according to the kingdom pattern God established in the Old Testament. After tracing the redemptive arc of Scripture to its climax in Jesus, Goldsworthy applies biblical theology to other areas of Christian living in hopes of elucidating difficult areas with counsel from the whole Bible.

Critical Review

Goldsworthy excels in the areas biblical theology is designed to handle, such as interpreting Scripture in light of its immediate context and that of the whole Bible. Moreover, he devotes adequate time to examining each of the Bible’s principles events and figures and building to the gospel event, allowing the gospel event to testify how Jesus is the Christ. The end of each chapter contains helpful references, charts, and study questions that builds off of the material of previous chapters. Goldsworthy successfully introduces biblical theology to help its readers understand the grand message of the Bible and is both comforting and uplifting, because According to Plan exalts Christ on its every page and explains how every word of Scripture testifies to Jesus as perfect man, perfect God, and the perfect plan of God’s salvation for His people.     

The strongest insight Goldsworthy provides is his chapter on the wisdom literature of Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, and Job. The wisdom writings appear where they do in the canon alongside Solomon, the wise king over Israel, because at this stage the main elements of God’s kingdom pattern have been established, providing “the framework within which the regenerated mind works to understand reality” (174). Because God’s covenant people live under God’s anointed king, they have the understanding of the “fear of the Lord” and can make sense of the principle “issues of human existence” (175). Goldsworthy, who has written extensively on the wisdom literature and its relation to biblical theology, provides insights to promote obedience to God’s Word and better reflect our redeemed status before God.

The weaknesses arise when Goldsworthy applies biblical theology to areas, such as the role of the Spirit and the human will in conversion, better suited to disciplines such as systematic theology. As such, Goldsworthy cannot devote much time to explaining them, and his presuppositions as a Reformed Anglican seem to settle the issue before biblical theology does.

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