The Spirit speaks through the written Word.

The Christian Scriptures

Learning From the Spirit's Tool

the Holy Spirit Why the Scriptures?

The Spirit reveals God's purposes thru the Bible

The sacred page is not meant to be the end, but only the means toward the end, which is knowing God himself.
A. W. Tozer

Why Read Scripture?

It is said that you study the Bible to know God. But the truth is, you won't fully know God. Think of another mystery about knowing someone else: about how you never really, fully get to know your friends, your children, or your spouse. There's always the unexpected, the surprise, the seemingly out-of-character action, something new, or something that's been there all along but you didn't notice it or it hadn't come up before. A complete knowledge of anyone (including yourself) is a mystery that's out of human reach. Yet, you do in a sense, know them: you develop an understanding in which you have more than enough trust to go by as you relate to them. The same is true of knowing God -- only, God is so complex it boggles the mind. God does not remove the mystery, but through Scripture you can develop this same kind of understanding, solidarity, and trust. It's not just a 'basic' knowledge, either; you can understand God and divine purposes with awesome depth. You can learn enough to grasp who God is, what God's about, how a life of following Jesus can be lived out, and where it's headed. Enough to catch the virus of God's good news and have it lodge itself in every cell. The Bible is there because God wants you to know. Not a full comprehension of the relationship, but an apprehension of it that's more than enough for it to be not only God's way, but yours too. Through the Bible, far more than anywhere else, the Spirit reveals what God is up to so you can recognize when it's happening around you and within you. You can move forward from there.

What the Scriptures Are Not

There are lots of ways the Scriptures have been brought into our lives. Some of those are popular, but have little or nothing to do with its purpose.

The Scriptures Are a Library

The Bible is not a single book. It is a library of books, all written by different authors at different times, all written under the influence of the Holy Spirit with one purpose in mind. You might develop strength of character from its examples, pattern your life according to the moral values in it, and even impact the world with something it taught you. That's worked for over a billion people over the years. But that's not why it's there. The Testaments written with a very different purpose in mind: the Spirit uses it to reveal the purpose, vision, and love of God, and to start, shape, and deepen faith in Christ. The Spirit made it to show how Christ recreated our relationship with God. When you read it without faith, you miss the whole point of having it. The Scriptures are great because of the Great One who stands behind it and that Great One's love for us, a love that came to us, suffered death, and overcame even death so that we might also overcome it. The medium (of print or speech or Web) is not the message; the God who Reveals is the message, and the medium is the messenger. Even more, the message is that of a love letter, rather than a rap sheet or a facts list. And like with a love letter, it's less how it's said than Who says it and why.

Another viewpoint is found in the Evangelical Covenant Church's on how they read Scripture.

"Perhaps there will be many Christians to whom it would not occur to pose the question whether the process of secularization has anything to do with the biblical understanding of the goal of history. The Bible, for them, belongs to a religious world which is not admitted to belong to the world of secular events... But this is to read the Bible wrongly. Whatever else it may be, the Bible is a secular book dealing with the sort of events which a news editor accepts for publication in a daily newspaper; it is concerned with secular events, wars, revolutions, enslavements and liberations, migrants and refugees, famines and epidemics and all the rest... We miss this because we do not treat the Bible as a whole. When we do this, we see at once that the Bible... is in its main design a universal history. It is an interpretation of human history as a whole, beginning with the saga of creation and ending with a vision of the gathering together of all the nations and the consummation of God's purpose for mankind."
----- Lesslie Newbigin, *Honest Religion for Secular Man*

The Bible is Literature

The Bible is a set of written documents, a library about God's core works among people. (That's why we call it "Scripture", and say "It is written...".) That means it works by way of literary forms such as poetry, story, commentary, and testimony, grammar and format, just like this article does. It covers incidents in history, and thus it is a part of the history of its time as also learned from archaeology and from other writings. If you try to understand Scripture without paying attention to this truth, almost immediately your understanding will go off-track. You'll think something is telling you fact when it's poetry, or history when it's allegory or parable. This mistake diverts you from what is actually being said.

There's a current school of thought called 'the narrative method' which comes in here. I'll simplify it too much here: the 'context' for everything in this Holy Testimony is its overall story line or 'meta-narrative'. All parts of the story find their meaning within the course of the overall story. The method isn't without its problems. The story is much greater than the sum of its parts, but you can't really know the story without grasping its parts, especially when the story develops from real life. Each passage, even each word, must have its full due and not be dismissed, even the most disgusting parts, even when it seems to go against the narrative. That said, the 'narrative' methods focus on what's about the Bible. The rest of it may be good to know, helpful, and even God's blessing for you, but it is the overall story line that gives us the 'why' for each passage's being there.

Have A Thirst to Learn

To learn of God requires that you thirst to find out. It's the same thirst you have for learning your lover, or the field of work you most want to do. Knowing plenty isn't good enough; there's always more, better, more robust and full. Keep reading, keep listening to others when they communicate about what Scripture says. One teacher will speak of its beauty, another of its plan or path, yet another about its ugly parts and its puzzles, and still another of its usefulness. Maybe one Bible verse will teach Scripture's gospel heart, while another will overturn the tables on your misunderstandings or how you're being cowardly in applying it. Maybe someone will puncture your excess zeal, or show how you put off doing what God is calling you to do, or thank you for doing it right. But you have to thirst. You don't have to spend 24/7 on it -- that would seriously get in the way of why you're thirsting. Some people just read a section of scripture of the day from a pre-set plan. But be intentional - be eager to learn. And be disciplined - many folks have taken on the discipline of daily scripture readings, not as a law, but as a good habit. Remember that 'consensus' is a somewhat-informed, commonly-held opinion that's begging to be challenged. Question, challenge, wrestle, and sometimes even insistently reject what you hear. Doubt your knowledge, your assumptions, your doubts themselves, and don't believe everything that you think. Trust instead that the Spirit is at work, and it is this same Spirit that communicates through the Scriptures beyond and above anything else. God wants you to know. The One you thirst to know is the One who loves you so much that you have been made a part of the homecoming party. What's not to love about that?


The Bible is a Testament, not a drugstore novel.

QUOTES

"Faith is the master, and reason the maid-servant."
----- Martin Luther

"The Bible’s way of talking about the Bible is "Word" and a word is spoken by a Person, who is engaged in a covenant relationship of love, and the proper response to the Word from God is to listen because, as covenant people, we want to know what God says and do what he wants."
-----

"Consider that the first time someone spoke of God in the third person and therefore no longer with God but about God was that very moment when the question resounded, 'Did God really say?' (Genesis 3:1). This fact ought to make us think."
----- Helmut Thielicke

"The Bible is not a book of science. The Bible is a book of Redemption."
----- Billy Graham

"Through this experience I found that the Bible was not adequate. I needed God in a personal way -- not as an object of my study, but as friend, guide, comforter. I needed an existential experience of the Holy One. Quite frankly, I found that the Bible was not the answer. I found the Scriptures to be helpful -- even authoritatively helpful -- as a guide. But without my feeling God, the Bible gave me little solace.

In the midst of this 'summer from hell', I began to examine what had become of my faith. I found a longing to get closer to God, but found myself unable to do so through my normal means: exegesis, Scripture reading, more exegesis. I believe that I had depersonalized God so much that when I really needed him I didn't know how to relate."
----- Daniel Wallace, about what happened during his son's bout with rare cancer. In *Christianity Today*, 12 Sept 1994.

Questions

  1. Look at the list of words that are used for describing the Holy Writ. Which one(s) mean the most to you? Why? Which one do you have the hardest time accepting? Why?
  2. What one thing most puzzles you about the Bible? Or about how other folks you know approach it?

For those whose churches/cells/small groups have had to scripturally re-examine its actions or stance on a specific matter:

Have you dared do these with the Holy Writ?

  1. Write down what you experience when reading or hearing Scripture. (I don't mean what you're 'supposed to' experience. What do you experience?)
  2. Choose a book of the Bible you've never read before, and read it aloud at the loudness and speed you would use in ordinary speech. Read it all the way through, even the technical parts. This can be done a chapter or two a day, which gives you more time to think about it.
  3. Or, choose a poetic passage, such as in the Psalms, Song of Songs, or Lamentations. Read it aloud, slowly, giving yourself time to savor it and let it sink in.
  4. Think of Scriptural ideas, symbol, or passages that have affected your life through non-Christian or general-public sources or people. (They're all over the place, but you may have to think a bit to find them.)
  5. Name one thing you have learned from the Scriptures.
  6. When you're studying the Gospel, try memorizing some of the key summary lines Jesus says, or have daily scriptures of encouragement, or some of the promises Jesus makes to His followers.
  7. If you're reading it in a church study group, try asking yourselves the question: What does Scripture say about our part in the mission of Christ's followers, acting together as his Body?

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