Last night I was having coffee with a friend as we explored Part III, Chapter 1 of Multiply, Disciples Making Disciples. The chapter is titled: Why Study the Bible? On the surface, those of us who were raised in the church don’t even consider the question, of course we study the Bible, don’t we? Or perhaps not. As I ask the question of pastors about biblical literacy, most shudder to think someone would evaluate their congregation, much less their own staff. Here’s the reality:
we, as a church, don’t study the Bible.
Chronologically, through this blog, we’re about to read the last books of the Old Testament, Ezra, Haggai & Zechariah, Nehemiah, Esther and Malachi. But before we venture into these books, I want you to imagine there is no Bible to explore the histories and prophecies of old. Whether you think about this in some sort of dystopian future world where books have been banished or you enter a time machine and land somewhere around A.D. 50, just imagine you no longer have the luxury of reading the printed Word of God.
Having just read A.D. 30 and A.D. 33, my mind lands on the time when Paul was writing the church plants in his day. Our Daily Bread included this reference today:
19Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and strangers, but fellow citizens with God’s people and also members of his household, 20built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone. 21In him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord. 22And in him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit. Ephesians 2:19-22
In typical Pauline fashion one paragraph is bound to the previous thought which was built on another and under the assumption that you understood the context. So many paragraphs start with “therefore” or in this case “consequently.” We have the ability to simply zoom out and see the rest of the text, but those around A.D. 50 relied on scrolls of the prophets which few had access to and the precious words from a letter that circulated through small gatherings of people known as Christians.
This is all they had and yet they became those who held fast to God’s Word, who hungered to learn more for they heard the message and story of Jesus from people who actually witnessed his teaching, death and resurrection!
Read these words from Paul to the church in Ephesus and consider our role in the church:
10His intent was that now, through the church, the manifold wisdom of God should be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly realms, 11according to his eternal purpose that he accomplished in Christ Jesus our Lord. Ephesians 3:10-11
Bouncing through a handful of translations and the MOUNCE Reverse-Interlinear edition (whatever that means!), the church, ekklēsia, suggests that we have a responsibility to make known to the world the purpose for which Jesus Christ came and dwelt among us.
But in A.D. 55, I wouldn’t have had the ability to click a few buttons and read more. I would have had to rely on the Spirit within me to comprehend those words.
I’m such a spoiled brat! I have BOTH the Spirit within me and the Bible in a dozen translations sitting on my bookshelf! God is all around me trying to teach me his Word.
Lord, I pray that I would thirst for your word and drink it up every day. Nourish me, Lord, for your purpose, not to make me fat! Show me how to impart this incredible story to the rest of the world in whatever ways I can.
Imagine no Bible for a moment.
Now imagine you are sitting in God’s library, a room full of books and writings that seem to have no end. The smell of bound leather is all around you as you make yourself comfortable. Jesus walks in the room and looks into your eyes with care and kindness. He sits across from you and begins to speak. He tells you stories about weddings and miracles, his concern about the establishment and the lost. He’s in no hurry to leave you as he laughs and smiles and cries. He just wants to answer all of your questions if you would simply ask with a heart that desires to hear the answer. He redeems and forgives. His incredible dialogue with Peter at the end of the Gospel of John always fascinates me, words of kindness and authority:
Jesus said, “Feed my sheep…Follow me!” John 21:17,19
Now open your eyes and see God’s Word in your hands. Be strong and courageous as you go out into the world today. Make him known to everyone!