Reading the Bible
A Message from Pastor Hale
The Bible is God's Word, inspired by the Holy Spirit. All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work. II Tim. 3:16-17. It is all God's Word. However, it does not all apply to you at all times. Its words are relatively simple, but the Spirit is required to understand spiritual words. Wrong inter-pretation is easy, but a faithful reading brings life through Christ.
Satan loves to use Scripture (and twist it), but this does not mean we are afraid to use it and immerse ourselves in it. You have pastors to lead and guide you into Scripture. Sermons put Bible texts into your context and should open up that portion of Scripture. Even children need not be afraid to use and read the Holy Scriptures, though like many good things, they can be perverted and turned around. There is a saying: Scripture is shal-low enough for an infant to wade in, but deep enough to drown an elephant.
Pagans and atheists love to quote Scripture wrongly to embarrass us and show us our Bible is foolish. Unbe-lievers often cite: Judge not lest ye be judged from Luke 6. But rarely do we hear the preceding verse: Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful. Or I Cor. 2: The spiritual person judges all things, but is himself to be judged by no one. How can we relate these two statements, since they are both God's Word and do not con-tradict each other? The Christian judges by God's Word and judgment, because he has the mind of Christ. The Luke 6 passage is law, telling us what perfection looks like—we put down others in our heart by judging them and considering them less than us. This does not mean we are to be silent in the face of sin against God. We know His will and speak against sinful deeds in love, not hate, to lead to repentance and forgiveness. Scripture is whole---it is does not contradict itself.
In the Old Testament, we have many difficult statements that are recited by some to show our Scriptures can-not possibly be followed today. We can read about harsh civil punishments, for example: If a man lies with a male as with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination; they shall surely be put to death; their blood is upon them. Leviticus 20. Are we to put homosexual offenders to death? Is that God's will? No, all of Scripture is God's Word, but it is not all God's Word to us. Scripture is not a simple rulebook, it is God's message of salvation and tells of those who believed and rejected Christ. There is a right way to read Scripture which leads to salvation.
In Old Testament times God was the government of Israel. Its civil law is recorded in Scripture. Today God rules us indirectly through the His instituted authorities, even if they are unbelievers. We must obey Caesar, our government, as Jesus and Romans 13 teaches. The civil laws in Scripture, including all punishments and crimes, do not apply to us in the least. We have a different government and do not try to impose biblical law on our government. Christ rules us spiritually through His Word and we obey our government where it is pos-sible to do so without sinning against God.
The Ten Commandments do not apply directly to you. That sounds radical, but it is true. They don't make sense when fully applied to us. They start out in Exodus 20: “I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery. “You shall have no other gods before me.” Did He bring you out of Egypt and physical slavery and promise you physical land? No. But the Law of God existed before the commandments were put on tablets of stone. We have the law written on our hearts: For when Gentiles, who do not have the law, by nature do what the law requires, they are a law to themselves, even though they do not have the law. They show that the work of the law is written on their hearts. Rom. 2:14-15. So how do we in-terpret the Third Commandment: “remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy?” It has nothing to do with a day for us—Christ is our rest every day.
There is no ceremonial law for the Christian. Colossians 2 explains this powerfully: Therefore let no one pass judgment on you in questions of food and drink, or with regard to a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath. These are a shadow of the things to come, but the substance belongs to Christ. Particular days and times are done away with. In Christ we are free from those outward laws and requirements. The moral law is still valid and we certainly teach the Ten Commandments because they do a wonderful job of explaining that law that God put in our hearts. But we must be careful to not lay burdens on others Christ does not. God's written word is not always God's command to the believer today.
Inspired by the Spirit, Paul goes further. The law actually has to do with the heart, not outward things. Love is the fulfillment of the law. Rom. 13:10. Col. 2 continues: If with Christ you died to the elemental spirits of the world, why, as if you were still alive in the world, do you submit to regulations—“Do not handle, Do not taste, Do not touch” (referring to things that all perish as they are used)—according to human precepts and teach-ings? These have indeed an appearance of wisdom in promoting self-made religion and asceticism and severi-ty to the body, but they are of no value in stopping the indulgence of the flesh. There is no power in the Law, which requires love.
There is no God-given way to worship or live for the Christian. No ceremonial laws apply to one free in faith. For example, God does not care what kind of clothes we wear—but our neighbor does. It is not a law, but out of love we do not want to offend our neighbor by being provocative or to treat hearing God's Word like going to a BBQ. So we voluntarily restrict ourselves, not because we are bound by ceremonial laws, but because we use our freedom for the good of our neighbor. No physical things can hurt us in Christ. But we want to look out for the weak, so we do not show off our freedom and cause others to doubt Christ. Why? Physical things such man-made ceremonies and customs do not help faith, but neither do they hurt it. True worship is in Spirit and truth, it is not about places or times or hands or voices. The Holy Spirit who is given in Baptism grants us the freedom of God from all sins and outward laws. John 4 speaks of spiritual New Testament worship. We are free in places, times, and forms—though this freedom is much abused in our day.
This restricting of freedom helps us to understand certain passages in the New Testament which sound like new ceremonial laws. But the freedom of Christ is spiritual, it not not about works, even the works we do in church. Much of the New Testament deals with one specific issue of ceremonial law. Many judaizers claimed: “Unless you are circumcised according to the custom of Moses, you cannot be saved.” Acts 15:1. They wanted Gentile Christians to submit to the inspired Jewish law which God gave—but not to Gentiles or Christians. But to return to the law at any point is to lose our freedom and the entire Gospel of forgiveness. The book of Galatians is about this specific issue. It is not wrong to circumcise, but to do anything to win sal-vation is slavery to the law, which cannot save and does not bring Christ. Understanding the purpose and use of the both the law and the Gospel opens up Scripture. It brings forth Christ, but many misuse Scripture — Christ's own Word.
Christianity is not about rules or laws. It is about Christ who died for all sin, so the law which points out sin is not over us in faith. We are in Christ free above the “elementary principles” of this world. It is not the outward things we do or touch which help or harm, but Christ's flesh's which was pure and a perfect sacrifice for
mankind. Scripture is entirely God's Word, but that does not mean we can just open up to random page and apply that word to ourselves. Scripture has a context and not everything mentioned is necessary to do or beneficial for us. Christ is the key to Scripture. The freedom He gives us in the Gospel is not to be minimized or
taken away by man-made or even divine, inspired laws. God's forgiveness through the Gospel is above all and must be preserved in a proper, spiritual reading of Scripture. Amen.
- Published: 01 November 2015 01 November 2015
- Last Updated: 28 February 2016 28 February 2016
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