The Only Way to Read Scripture

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The Only Way to Read Scripture

16 August 2023 Hits:2619

Since I decided to follow Jesus, I have loved reading and studying the Scriptures. But I can’t say that my relationship with the Bible has been easy-going. That’s mainly because of how I understood the Bible to work and how it should be read. I’ll explain:

The Uniform Way

For the first couple of decades of my Christian life, I read the Bible as a uniform text where every word has equal authority. The justification for this approach to Scripture is 1 Timothy 3:16, “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness.” There it is in plain language, “all Scripture.” It’s all equal, all important and all the same. Except I have never met any Christian who lives the Bible this way – me included! So, what did Paul mean?

Paul is writing to his dear son, who led the Ephesian church. Timothy struggled with the burden of his role, so the apostle wrote to encourage him. Amongst other things, Paul reminds Timothy of his devotion to “the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.”

All Scripture is helpful, but that doesn’t mean that all Scripture is applied equally. The problem with the uniform way of reading the Bible is that it doesn’t account for this difference. More on that next week.

The Progressive Way

The Progressive Way views the Scriptures as a developing story “where all the words accumulate in a crescendo of consistent truth.”[1] In recent years, I have become much more comfortable with this way of reading Scripture as it embraces the evolving narrative of God’s love for people and his desire to “reconcile the world to himself in Christ.”

The Bible is living, dynamic, and energetic. Just like flowing water, the Bible’s message is heading somewhere. It’s got momentum, and it’s progressing. For example, the Bible shifts from a revenge perspective to a way of grace and kindness personified in Christ. We witness the Bible’s progression in many ways, including slavery, women’s rights, interracial marriage, illegitimate children, war, capital punishment, and gender diversity. The Bible is not a static book. But there’s still a better way to read and understand the Scriptures.

The Jesus’ Way

The Bible itself calls Jesus the Word. Notice the capital W. When speaking about Scripture, the Bible employs a small ‘w’. Jesus is the Big W Word, the One to whom the written word must bow because Jesus is Lord! If Jesus Christ is Lord, he is supreme even over the Bible.

That’s how Jesus understood Scripture. Consider his Sermon on the Mount, where he altered several Old Testament verses. “You have heard that it was said to our ancestors,” said Jesus, “But I tell you…”

Jesus abolished the food laws (Mark 7:19), and Paul agreed (Romans 14). Goodbye Leviticus 11 and Deuteronomy 14, and hello bacon!

At other times Jesus disagreed with Scripture (Mark 10:1-9) or chose not to argue about individual verses and extend kindness instead (John 5:1-14; 8:2-11), something we Christians would do well to imitate.

The Revd. Peter Bartel put it this way, “Read the Bible. When anything in the rest of the Bible disagrees with Jesus, listen to Jesus.” Jesus is Lord!

A Beautiful Example

Luke is the only gospel writer to include the amazing story of post-resurrection Jesus walking and talking with two of his disciples. Luke tells us that the men, Simon and Cleopas, were kept from recognising him.

Jesus gave them the most amazing Bible study as they chatted: “Beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself.” Wow! I have wondered why Luke didn’t document Jesus’ words. I can only think that it was because we are supposed to read and study Scripture for ourselves. Christians are to read the Bible like that, the Jesus’ way.

Final Reflections

C.S. Lewis wrote, “It is Christ himself, not the Bible, who is the true Word of God. The Bible, read in the right spirit and with the guidance of good teachers, will bring us to him.”

Neither Lewis nor I are devaluing the Bible. We are simply putting it in its proper place. I am not teaching a low view of Scripture but a high view of Jesus. I fear that making the Bible an idol is possible as if the Trinity consisted of Father, Son, and Holy Scriptures.

The Bible teaches that Jesus is the Word of God! The primary revelation about Jesus is found in the small w word. Each page points to him. And so, as you read the Bible, Jesus’ Way ask: 

  1. How does this point to or reflect Jesus?
  2. In what way(s) does this draw me into intimacy with Jesus?
  3. Does this verse or story align with what I know about Jesus?

For a Christian, it’s the only way to read Scripture!

 

[1] A More Christlike Word. Dr Bradley Jersak (P. 41).

Rob Buckingham

Senior Minister

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3 replies on “The Only Way to Read Scripture”

Godfreysays:

Dear Ps Rob,
C.S. Lewis & you couldn’t have stated it better. I had always equated the bible (small w) to Jesus (big W) & treated all scripture as “uniform, important & relevant”. These days I give more importance to Jesus’ words & their true meaning (WWJD). Ps Shane Willard’s take on “Historical arc” (progressive approach) also helped me a great deal. Thank you.

Carolyn Elliottsays:

Choosing the way of love is ongoing, as non of us are worthy of casting the first stone.

Lorrainesays:

That is so good 👍

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