We are continuing our walk through Scripture at Revolution. Last week we hit the Trinity and this week covered Scripture. For nearly 2000 years Christians have affirmed the following six things about the Bible:
Inspiration: The words of Scripture are the very words of God (2 Tim. 3:16; cf. John 14:26 and 16:13. Note 2 Peter 3:16 and 1 Tim. 5:18).
Inerrancy: Scripture in the original manuscripts does not affirm anything that is contrary to fact (2 Sam. 7:28; Titus 1:2 and Heb. 6:18).
Authority: Because the words of Scripture are the very words of God then to disbelieve or disobey any word of Scripture is to disbelieve or disobey God.
Clarity: The Bible is written in such a way that its teachings are able to be understood by all who will read it seeking God’s help and being willing to follow it. (Deut. 6:6-7; Ps. 19:7 and 119:30. Cf. Matt. 12:3, 5; 19:14; etc. Contra. 2 Pet. 3:15-16. However, please note 1 Cor. 2:14 re: how to understand Scripture).
Necessity: The Bible is necessary for knowing the Gospel, for maintaining spiritual life, and for knowing God’s will, but is not necessary for knowing that God exists or for knowing something about God’s character and moral laws. (Rom. 10:13-17; cf. Matt. 4:4; Ps. 119:1 and 1 Jn. 5:3).
Sufficiency: The Bible contained all the words of God he intended his people to have at each stage of redemptive history, and that it now contains all the words of God we need for salvation, for trusting him perfectly, and for obeying him perfectly. (2 Tim. 3:15-16).
Now, some people have objected that to assert these things about Scripture by pointing to Scripture is circular (i.e., something is right because it says it is right) but if Scripture is the very word of God then it is the highest authority and therefore cannot appeal to anything but itself. Think about it.
In my experience as a pastor, however, these are not really the things most people stumble over in regards to the Bible. For many it is that some parts of Scripture are just plain weird. For example, see Genesis 3 and Numbers 22:1-35 where you have talking animals! Always freaked me out.
What do you do with the “strange world of the Bible”? I was driving home from D.C. and looking at the mountains and lakes that God made with just a word from His mouth and realized that if God can do that then God can certainly make a talking donkey even if it is just bizarre.
Then there are those within the church who object that the bigger problem is that pastors have taught doctrine instead of narrative. Folks like writer Donald Miller have argued that the Bible is made up of story after story after story and that we do injustice to these texts by chopping them up and turning them into bullet points. He advises that we should just tell the stories and let them settle.
There is some truth to this approach but I want to ask Don this…is that really all of Scripture? No, of course not. Yes, you get story after story but then the story is often interrupted by speeches, songs and letters telling you what the story you just read is really about! This is what modern preaching is. It simply reflects the approach to the stories taken by Moses, Paul, Peter, etc. Not bad company.
Now it’s true that there are stories that need to be told and left to do their thing but not always. In the end, the Bible is both a story to be told and lived out as well as truths (or doctrines) to be affirmed. This two pronged approach is the only way to be truly faithful to Scripture.
I was also thinking last week about the way the Bible is laid out and how brilliant it is. I mean, you get this story that runs from creation to the fall of Israel (interrupted by Ruth and Esther, which are the Biblical equivalents of chick movies) and then you get wisdom and prophets who, in part, re-tell the story, interpret it and foreshadow the rest of the story.
The Apostle Paul tells us that the reason that God selects Israel even though He knows they will fail at their commissioned task to bring the rest of the world to worship the one true God is to teach us that we cannot fix the world or ourselves on our own. Only God can do it.
So, here comes the New Testament which begins with the Gospel of Matthew which tells the story of God becoming man, being tempted as we are tempted, teaching us what is right, being rejected and abandoned as we all have been, suffering and dying the death we deserved and then rising again to give us hope. Then you get to Mark and go through it all again and then you get to Luke and go through it all again and then you get to John and go through it all again…why? Why four Gospels? Maybe because we need to read it again and again and again and again from slightly different perspectives in order to even begin to grasp mind blowing truths like grace (i.e., the undeserved gift of salvation from God). We get hit with this four times before we are allowed to get to the story of the early church (the book of Acts) and how the Holy Spirit directed it and then it ends abruptly without a real ending…why? I think it’s because it challenges all of us to take the baton from Paul and carry out the mission we all have been given by King Jesus.
And then you get the letters which point out the all important truths from the stories you just read and then you get the strange book of Revelation, which in the end teaches the simple truth that “we win!” And then you flip to the beginning of your Bible, read yourself into the people of Israel, realize how crippled by sin we are and how desperately we need salvation and then we get hit with the Gospel again and again and again and again and then…well…you get the picture.
Now, perhaps you have read the Bible and studied the doctrines and still feel like the stories are just old, boring, dead stories. Let me issue an invitation to you, come walk with us at Revolution. Get to know us and go with us into the streets and homeless shelters while reading these stories and see what happens. See if the stories come to life and see if your own story begins to connect with those old stories of the Bible.
I was blessed to sit at dinner the other night in Washington, D.C. as they honored Chuck Colson. If you don’t know who that is then he was a Nixon aide convicted of crimes during Watergate. He became a Christian during this time and began to minister to his fellow prisoners while serving his time. After he left prison, he founded ministries like The Prison Fellowship and Project Angel Tree, which continues to minister to prisoners around the world. Colson was once asked what it is like to bring Jesus to the prisons and he responded, “I don’t bring Jesus to the prisons…I found Him there.”
Come with us to the Savlation Army or the local homeless shelter and see what God is doing and then see if those stories of sin and healing begin to take root in your soul.
If you are already a Christian who loves those stories and wants to live them out as well as affirm their truths then come with us and begin to build the stories you will be known for throughout eternity!
By Matt Rawlings, Revolution Leadership Team.