God doesn’t just leave us to speculate the proper perspective to have of the bible. He teaches us what the point is by giving us the kinds of questions to ask:
- “What must I do to inherit eternal life?”(Luk 18:18)
- “What is the greatest commandment?”(Mat 22:36)
- “What must we do, to be doing the works of God?”(John 6:28)
- “What must I do to be saved?”(Acts 16:30).
These questions are in the bible to teach us that these are the questions that Christ came to be answer to. In other words, we are taught a lot about what the bible is all about by the kinds of questions that God allows to be put in it. I would argue that they are questions that are at the heart of the human experience.
Questions 1-3 were asked before Christ had completed his work on earth. He came to accomplish 1 and 2, and so the answers to those are basically to personally perfectly obey the law of God (Mat 5:17;Gal 4:4-5). Calvin notes that the moral law is written on the conscience of mankind in creation, and so our confession states that God deals with all of Adams offspring in this way, by requiring perfect personal obedience from them with eternal life or death on the line (WCF 7.2)
Question 3:“What must we do, to be doing the works of God?” Everyone of Adam’s offspring wants to do some works for God and be approved by it. Afterall, Adam was made for works. Jesus answered the question this way: “This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent.”
I think that his answer potentially has a double meaning. On the one hand that God is the one that creates the faith in us by which we believe in Christ and are justified, so it actually is God’s work. On the other hand, we are to believe in Christ who is our justification. So, He is simply telling us the gospel of how we are saved. We are saved by believing. We are justified by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone. So this is the whole work of God summed up. Have faith in Christ and the sufficiency of His work on your behalf. This answers their question along the lines of what they should be doing to be doing the work of God. Believe in Him.
And now we come to the final question of the Philippian Jailer who asked “What must I do to be saved?”. This question is after Jesus has already lived a perfect life under the law that we could not, and died the death for our sins in our place, and now we are “saved” by Christ through faith alone in Him alone. That is basically Paul’s answer “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household.”
So there is a reason that we don’t move on to new perspectives on the bible, because God gives us the perspective by giving us not only the right answers, but the right questions to ask. So we don’t need to change the emphasis to a new perspective, or seeking to get our joy by following and obeying Christ. We follow and (imperfectly) obey Christ because of what He has done for us. These questions and the answers to these questions recovered and stated in Reformed confessional Christianity make the focus of the bible, and the central focus of the Christian faith clearer. There’s no need to move on from that.