“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.”
– C. S. Lewis
Give Thanks, Not Worship
I grew up on Sword Drills and Bible Bowls. I could quickly turn to any text called out, Old or New Testament, as quick as lightning. I knew Bible trivia to answer any question thrown into the ring for competition. I had notebook after notebook full of Bible verses I’d written from Sunday morning sermons.
The people in my denomination were known as “walking Bibles.” We were people of the book. We thought we had figured out the Bible. At least I thought so.
But did I know Jesus? Was I prioritizing loving God and loving others, the first and second great commandments according to Jesus’s words in the Bible (Matthew 22:36-40)?
I’m thankful for the rigorous education I got on the Bible. It taught me the bones of the Bible, which continues to prove valuable to me.
I still read the Bible. I still study the Bible. I still memorize passages of the Bible.
I give thanks for the Bible.
But I don’t want to worship the Bible. I don’t want to be a bibliolater (one who makes an idol of the Bible, placing it as equal with God).
Heart for the Living Word
Perhaps I did qualify as a practicing bibliolater in those days. I concentrated more on the written words than the Living Word.
That was then. It was what I knew.
But this is now. My heart belongs to the Living Word, not the written word.
“I did then what I knew how to do. Now that I know better, I do better.” (Thanks, Maya Angelou).
I still tremendously value the written words from God, don’t get me wrong. I learned and continue to learn about and from Jesus through the written words (and also through experiences with him, in conversations with you, in the testimonies of believers throughout the ages, etc.). I’ll finish up the 2-year Bible Reading Plan again on Friday (even though it took me longer than 2 years again).
But I don’t worship the messenger. My delight is in who the message is about.
“You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about me, yet you refuse to come to me that you may have life.”
Even the Bible Says So
Perhaps it sounds as if I’m just nitpicking words. But I’m just trying to prioritize my values.
When I give you my word, I give you my truth, my promise, my reputation. When God gives us his word, he does the same but amplified: he gives us Jesus.
We read it in the Bible itself: Jesus is the Word.
“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made.”
“And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.”
I appreciate how Bradley Jersak says it,
“I’ve met the Word of God, and he’s far more than a book.”
Is the Word of God a what or a who? My answer is a who.
8 Quotes from A More Christlike Word
For more explanations, research, and scriptures, I recommend a fantastic new book I just finished by Bradley Jersak, A More Christlike Word: Reading Scripture the Emmaus Way. He goes into detail on these issues (and dozens more).
You might not agree with everything Jersak says. That’s okay. I offer my usual caveat for this book as I do others:
You don’t have to agree with everything to get value from some.
Here are 8 excerpts from Jersak’s book. See what you think.
1. A BEARD
“The Word of God is Jesus Christ. I believe that the Word of God is inspired, infallible, and inerrant. And when he was about eighteen years old, he grew a beard.”
2. THE LIVING VOICE
“Christ gets the final word, and the Scriptures testify to his authority. I relate to Christ as God’s Word and to the Bible as one (and not the only) venue where I can hear the living Voice.”
3. HEAR THE FATHER
“It’s possible to spend a lifetime studying the Bible without once hearing the Father or knowing the Word.”
4. ORIENT YOURSELF
“We might say the proper orientation for entering Scripture is love for God, humility before God, and openness to God.”
5. RIGHT HAND OF GOD
“We see this subversion [of bibliolatry] when the Bible is elevated to the right hand of the Father and honored with the title “Word of God”—the name that belongs to Jesus Christ alone.”
6. READ FOR GOSPEL
“Do we read our own biases into the text? YES. Should we? NO. But we should and must read the gospel into the text AND from the text, or we risk reducing our Bible to the same dead letter the Pharisees read so fruitlessly.”
7. STUDY HOW TO STUDY
“Studying the Scriptures includes studying how to study the Scriptures.”
8. OUR STORY IS . . .
“[The cross of Christ] reveals the gracious heart of the Father who has always been, is now, and will always be perfectly revealed in Jesus. And that, my friends, is our Story.”
Do you have a complicated history with the Bible too? Share in the comments.
My thanks to Speakeasy for the
review copy of A More Christlike Word
- Let Love Be the Tiebreaker
- Past, Present, or Future: Where Do You Get Stuck?