Approaching Scripture, part 6
Note: This post is the final post in a six-part series.
- Part One – Introduction
- Part Two – Inspired
- Part Three – Inerrant and Infallible
- Part Four – Authoritative
- Part Five – Sufficient
- Part Six – Clear and Unified
This week we’re wrapping up this series, “Approaching Scripture.” What I mean by that title is this: when we come to Scripture—be that in our own private reading and meditation, in a small group study, or when it is time to hear Scripture in a corporate worship setting—we approach Scripture with the convictions we have seen over the last few weeks.
When we approach Scripture, we do so with the belief that it is not like any other book. These words are God’s words.
When we approach Scripture, we do so with the firm conviction that the words we read in the Bible contain no errors, that they are trustworthy in everything that they assert.
When we approach Scripture, we do so with the humility that joyfully and willingly places ourselves under the authority of God’s Word, knowing that “to disbelieve or disobey any word of Scripture is to disbelieve or disobey God.”
When we approach Scripture, we do so with a singlemindedness that knows the words of Scripture contain all that we need for life and godliness.
And, finally, when we approach Scripture, we do so with confidence that its message is a unified whole that is clear and knowable.
Despite popular opinion, perhaps even the opinion in many pews, the truth is that God has communicated with us in Scripture in a way that is understandable. Wayne Grudem says it like this: In the Bible, God has communicated with us “in such a way that its teachings are able to be understood by all who would read it seeking God’s help and being willing to follow it.”
It’s important that we come to Scripture with the confidence that it is “able to be understood,” but affirming that doesn’t mean we also must affirm that it will always be easy to understand it. The Bible itself even admits as much:
And count the patience of our Lord as salvation, just as our beloved brother Paul also wrote to you according to the wisdom given him, as he does in all his letters when he speaks in them of these matters. There are some things in them that are hard to understand, which the ignorant and unstable twist to their own destruction, as they do the other Scriptures. You therefore, beloved, knowing this beforehand, take care that you are not carried away with the error of lawless people and lose your own stability. But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be the glory both now and to the day of eternity. Amen.2 Peter 3:15–18, ESV
As a side note here, be sure to notice that Peter places Paul’s writings on the same level as “the other Scriptures.” This is one of many pieces of evidence that we have that the New Testament writings that we have today were seen as “Scripture” long before any church council was held.
But the main thing for us to see here is this truth: Scripture was written in such a way that, even though some things may be difficult, it can still be knowable. “There are some things that are hard to understand,” but Peter is assuming that they are able to be understood. Some twist and distort these hard teachings, but for us, he implores us to know beforehand that some things may be difficult, to take care that we don’t get carried away by false teachers, and to grow in the grace and knowledge of Christ.
He’s saying that what we need to know from Scripture, we can know.
Understanding Scripture often requires work, but the work is rewarding. I’ll close this section with these words from Proverbs 2. Pay close attention to the analogy that is used, and to the reward that is promised.
My son, if you receive my words and treasure up my commandments with you,Proverbs 2:1–6, ESV
making your ear attentive to wisdom and inclining your heart to understanding;
yes, if you call out for insight and raise your voice for understanding,
if you seek it like silver and search for it as for hidden treasures,
then you will understand the fear of the LORD and find the knowledge of God.
For the LORD gives wisdom; from his mouth come knowledge and understanding.
Finally, we approach Scripture with the confidence that from Old to New Testament, from Genesis to Revelation, across the Law and the Prophets and the Wisdom literature, through the gospels and the letters and Revelation, there is one core message of Scripture: God’s glory displayed through his salvation of a people from all nations by the means of his appointed Messiah.
Scripture is a message about God, God’s glory, God’s salvation, and God’s Lordship over all things.
I could be even more concise and say it this way – all Scripture is meant to point us to Jesus.
John 5:39 – You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about me.
John 5:46 – For if you believed Moses, you would believe me; for he wrote of me.
Luke 24:25–27 – And he said to them, “O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory?” And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself.
Luke 24:44–47 – Then he said to them, “These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you, that everything written about me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled.” Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures, and said to them, “Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, and that repentance for the forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem.
To interpret the Bible correctly, then, we need to have an understanding of where we are in relation to the cross, to Christ.
This truth will impact how we understand everything in the Scriptures.
Scripture is not about me, it’s not about you, and it’s not even about Israel. Scripture is about God. Therefore, our first job isn’t to find “what this passage means to me,” or to look for ourselves in the story, our first job is to find what each passage reveals about God. God is the main character in the story, not us. He wonderfully lifts us up and showers us with grace and mercy, he fills us with dignity and worth, but that doesn’t mean it’s all about us. Scripture is about him.
Bert Watts has served since December 2016 as the Senior Pastor at Mountain Creek Baptist Church, where he has been on staff since 2012.