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Using a clip from Tim Keller's talk at the 2007 TGC conference, Heath McPherson created using the art of Gustave Doré (1832-1883):

Jesus is the true and better Adam who passed the test in the garden and whose obedience is imputed to us.

Jesus is the true and better Abel who, though innocently slain, has blood now that cries out, not for our condemnation, but for acquittal.

Jesus is the true and better Abraham who answered the call of God to leave all the comfortable and familiar and go out into the void not knowing wither he went to create a new people of God.

Jesus is the true and better Isaac who was not just offered up by his father on the mount but was truly sacrificed for us. And when God said to Abraham, "Now I know you love me because you did not withhold your son, your only son whom you love from me," now we can look at God taking his son up the mountain and sacrificing him and say, "Now we know that you love us because you did not withhold your son, your only son, whom you love from us."

Jesus is the true and better Jacob who wrestled and took the blow of justice we deserved, so we, like Jacob, only receive the wounds of grace to wake us up and discipline us.

Jesus is the true and better Joseph who, at the right hand of the king, forgives those who betrayed and sold him and uses his new power to save them.

Jesus is the true and better Moses who stands in the gap between the people and the Lord and who mediates a new covenant.

Jesus is the true and better Rock of Moses who, struck with the rod of God's justice, now gives us water in the desert.

Jesus is the true and better Job, the truly innocent sufferer, who then intercedes for and saves his stupid friends.

Jesus is the true and better David whose victory becomes his people's victory, though they never lifted a stone to accomplish it themselves.

Jesus is the true and better Esther who didn't just risk leaving an earthly palace but lost the ultimate and heavenly one, who didn't just risk his life, but gave his life to save his people.

Jesus is the true and better Jonah who was cast out into the storm so that we could be brought in.

Jesus is the real Rock of Moses, the real Passover Lamb, innocent, perfect, helpless, slain so the angel of death will pass over us. He's the true temple, the true prophet, the true priest, the true king, the true sacrifice, the true lamb, the true light, the true bread.

The Bible's really not about you--it's about him.

HT: Collin Hansen

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30 thoughts on “The Bible Is Not Basically about You”

  1. Great video and a great reminder for all of us. Thanks for posting the words here also.

  2. Scott Crook says:

    Great video. FYI – I’m pretty sure Keller is reading / quoting from Sinclair Ferguson. If so, it would be good to credit him.

    1. Justin Taylor says:


      I’ll double-check, but I think this is Keller’s material. Before that he recommended Sinclair’s paper (, but it doesn’t contain what Keller says here. I’ll let you know if I find out something different.


  3. Tony Romano says:


  4. tom says:


    This prayer is from Jesus that we may here from Him, that He may meet our needs. It only consist of three simple steps.

    1) We need to read one scripture. This will focus us in the word that brings everlasting life.

    2) Since this prayer is from Jesus we need yo direct our prayer to Him personally. Too often Christian focus they’re prayer’s to G_D the father. Scripture proclaims that Jesus should be the focus of our prayer.

    3) The simplest part of this Prayer is to ask Jesus one question. Please, all that is required for this question is to make it simple. Let Jesus Himself finish the question when He gives you that understanding through prayer.

    The PRAYER

    The scripture that is the focus of this prayer is “ACTS 2:38″. It’s not necessary to do any study into this scripture. Jesus Himself willl bestow the understanding that will resonate in your heart.

    The most important part of this prayer is that we need to direct our prayer directly to Jesus. If you normally would say Father in your prayer, change your focus from the Father to Christ Jesus by lifting Jesus name up every time you would normally use Father in your prayer.

    Maybe the hardest part of this prayer is the question that we need to ask Jesus. For man as we are, always try to understand the question and may add many additional quires. The simplest question is all that is required.

    Simply ask Jesus ‘WHY’

    1. Skeeter says:


      Im not sure I am tracking you.

      Shouldn’t we pray to the Father, through the Spirit, in the name of Jesus?

  5. Daryl says:


    Or, alternatively, you could pray the way Jesus told us to pray, to the Father through Him, and leave the why up to God.

    “The secret things belong to God…”

    If it’s not in there, you don’t need to know it.

    The video is so spot on. Funny how you know something, but a guy like Keller, in 3 minutes, reminds you and teaches you all at once.

    Thanks for this JT.

  6. Ray Fowler says:

    Mark Driscoll does a riff on this in his book On the Old Testament. Here is the link at Google Books: On the Old Testament, page 39

  7. Ray Fowler says:

    Whoops, and it shows up again in his book, Doctrine: What Christians Should Believe. Google books: Doctrine, p. 45

  8. Matt Beatty says:

    As far as it goes, Keller’s words are great. But they appear incomplete. He says, “Is the Bible BASICALLY” about me and what I must do or about Jesus and what he’s done?” I take his use of “basically” as a qualifier… he’s not making an absolute claim (e.g. not exclusively or only about Jesus…)

    I agree with Keller that the Bible’s central/dominant theme is the revelation (in the fulness of time) of Israel’s Messiah and the Cosmos’ Lord – Jesus Christ – and the redemption/renewal that he offers.

    Still… this seems to place almost ALL of the weight on the Indicative and very little (functionally) on the Imperative.

    My experience (and I’ll admit it’s selective…) is that contemporary evangelicals and, dare I say it, New Calvinists who have very little of the balance of the English Puritans (as an example) who could preach sermon after sermon on the person and work of Jesus (Take Flavel’s FOUNTAIN OF LIFE OPENED, for example) but also emphasized the theological/ethical imperatives that flow out of a true understanding of the Gospel so that people really do change, grow, mature in the fulness of Christ and don’t merely read book after book, or spend time blogging, while their wives, kids, church communities wither and die.

    I’m seeing a GREAT temptation here and all of the conferences, mp3’s, blogs, etc. don’t appear to be much more than fuel for the fire.

    1. Nate says:

      What I find with this this objection, Matt, is that it usually fails to recognize a crucial thing- those who are hammering the indicative are causing their hearers to fulfill the imperative. If the imperative is, fundamentally, to abide in Christ, then the hearing of the indicative is(or at least has the potential to be) abiding.

      And sure, there’s lots of ethical imperatives one could bring up when one reads the Bible. President Obama, Dr. Phil, Thomas Jefferson, and Buddhism also give me lots of imperatives.
      I guess I believe that, when the imperative in Scripture is seen for what it is, it’s actually read as an indicative- a sort of “installment” in the story. “Go and make disciples…” is one of the great imperatives…and it should be read primarily as something Jesus commanded his original disciples, which they then fulfilled in Acts having been filled with the Spirit. The key is that the wonder hit us over what happened in the Gospel/early church story, and it begins to take over the decision-making organ in us. Then we begin to fulfill it as a part of our nature, not so much because we’re under the weight of the command. If we’re fulfilling the imperative, it’s kind of a moot point to stress the imperative, and if we aren’t, well, I don’t know that any amount of imperative will generate its fulfillment.

      1. Nate says:

        I don’t know if that’s what you meant by your original comment, but I wanted to throw it out there, since it’s a subject that’s been close to me for a long time.

        1. Nate,

          I love Tim, and I love this topic and try to teach this way; but I also think Scripture affirms other uses of Scripture, and that it’s imperative (pun!) that we attend to all these.

          On the heels of Christ-centered emphasis for biblical interp in 3:15, 2 Tim 3:16-17 tells us that Scripture is to be used for “correction, reproof, training in righteousness,” the end of which is for spiritual maturity, good works. Nate, I reckon this means that the indicative doesn’t substitute for the imperative (nor the other way ’round!). Paul apparently felt it necessary to give a good many imperatives in all of his major letters; it’s not “all indicative, all the time.”

          “Elijah was a man like us . . . ” “Let’s not be sexually immoral or unholy like Esau . . .” “These things [OT stories] happened as an example for us . . . so that we might not desire evil as they did. . .don’t be idolaters. . . don’t be sexually immoral.”

          Those aren’t quotes from the fundie pastor down the street. They’re out of the NT as it preaches from the OT. Unless we know how to use the Bible better than Paul, James, and Hebrews, I think we need to employ such approaches as well.

          Let’s make sure we are trying to follow what Scripture models, which certainly includes an intense Christ-centered, Keller-esque approach. Let’s note that In 1 Cor 10 and other places, finding Jesus in the OT (here Christ is the rock which supplied water) contributes to the use of moral imperatives rather than eliminating the need for them.

          1. Jared says:

            Listen to the context of this clip. Yes, there are imperatives as Keller also says, but if the indicatives are not pressed then, Keller says, you are just beating on people’s wills.

            Our problem in American pulpits is not too much Gospel and not enough Law. In fact, if we banned the Law for a month from pulpits I don’t think some preachers could fill two minutes talking about the gospel without throwing in an imperative.

            But listen to the context rather than someone’s edit before making such a broad claim that Keller is eliminating the imperative. Nay, rather he establishes them:


            1. Jared and all,

              Please note that my comments on imperative were a response to Nate’s assertion about the lack of need for imperatives. I was not responding to Keller, but to this (increasingly common) corruption of his approach. Tim certainly affirms imperatives and gives imperatives in various ways in sermons, sometimes subtle, sometimes overt. You are quite right to note this is just a clip, not Tim’s philosophy of preaching writ large.

              I think you are right about the problem in many of our pulpits, Jared. There are also places where preachers are derided for moral interpretation, and Nate’s approach (increasingly common in our circles) is indicative of the fact that there’s a problem on the other end of the spectrum as well. I don’t want to see either extreme get too much ammunition. The NT calls us to avoid both legalism and antinomianism, for both are deadly.

  9. Mike Neglia says:

    I remember listening to the mp3 of this sermon in my office in 2007 and realizing I’ve been missing the point for years.
    This was the most powerful part of the message and I’m glad that someone made it so much more accessible by putting it to music and art.

    *on a side note, not all of the etchings were from Dore, although most of them were.*

  10. Matt Beatty says:

    I would contend that the problem with out pulpits is that there’s an absence of Gospel and Law – both of them – and an excess of personal anecdotes, engaging stories, emotional appeals, etc.

    The Gospel – what God did and continues to do in Jesus, through the Spirit – is a must and precursor to the implications/fruit/commands that issue forth from new creation – the imperatives.

    I still think that we Protestant, Reformed evangelicals really believe that the “good works” of Eph. 2:10 – the one’s that God planned for us in the Gospel – are optional… icing on the cake and not part of the cake itself.

    Justification and sanctification are distinct acts of God, but don’t separate them. God doesn’t.

    My sense is that Tim Keller, as helpful as he is on some things, can be like the man with a hammer… everything looks like a nail. So the answer to every question is – essentially – “justification.”

    I know Tim doesn’t actually believe that, nor has he ever said that. But has he so emphasized the “indicative” that the “imperative” gets squished. In talking with unbelievers (which I take Tim to be dealing with in much, much greater percentages than most of us…. praise be to God for him in this regard), he’s right to emphasize, first and foremost, the radical idea of justification by grace through faith. And Christians need to hear this, too. It’s not as if we leave the Gospel behind us. But Christians indwelt by the Spirit of God, now have the ability (Hallelujah!) to do what God commands… starting with believing and letting that belief suffuse all of their actions! This is OBEDIENCE!

    Perhaps the context of the above quote (which I haven’t heard/read would make this more clear.

  11. Paul C says:

    Really good. Another good video, though more dramatic, along the same vein:

  12. Fadi Hanna says:

    Having heard many hundreds of Keller’s sermons over the years, I am fairly comfortable in asserting that Keller very rarely, if ever, fails to adequately emphasize the imperative in his preaching, while, of course, always doing a remarkable job of communicating the indicative.

  13. Kristin Coon says:

    I watched the video. Can the words to this video be found on the internet or does anyone know where I might could find them at? Thanks in advance for your help with this.

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Justin Taylor, PhD

Justin Taylor is executive vice president of book publishing and book publisher for Crossway and blogs at Between Two Worlds. You can follow him on Twitter.

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