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Sunday, November 24, 2013

The Written Word of God


The Written Word of God


I was having lunch with my friend Suzie when she leaned over and told me that she was depressed because she didn’t think that we were worshipping God the “correct” way.  She had joined a discussion group at church and now she doubted her Christian faith!  Surprised and shocked I asked her what exactly had caused her to question her faith. 


Suzie replied that she no longer trusted the Bible, that the Bible was outdated and we need new revelations to fit our modern lifestyle.  Anyway, the stories in the Old Testament didn’t really happen but were metaphors or made up myths, she added. But if the myths are real in our minds then they are indeed real for us! – say again?  A seminary professor had told her this, so it must be true!  I guess she was saying that our faith is all in our minds!  


Sue saw how upset I was getting but she just kept on talking. “And the God of the Old Testament is judgmental”, she spoke louder, “outmoded”.  We need to update God –maybe create a new god who doesn’t take sin so seriously, she explained waving her hands in the air!    


By now my head was spinning but before I could catch my breath she went on fussing about the judgmental God in the story of Noah’s ark.  The story of Noah’s ark tells of a God who caused a flood that ended the lives of all the people in the world at that time, except Noah and his family.   What a terrible story!  Sue ranted.  How could we worship a God who could do such a thing?  We need a God who doesn’t judge, she added! 


Suzie face was twisted with pain as she poured out her concerns.  Depression and confusion had taken over Sue’s life where there had once been faith and joy.  My friend no longer believed the Bible was God’s Word and now she had lost the joy of her salvation.  I was angry – angry at this church group that had torn apart her precious faith and angry that such heresies are out there to harm other young believers like Suzie.     


Evidently Suzie’s church group has a low view of Scripture.  Many of the books in our Bible painstakingly give us the genealogy and history of the Jewish people and other ancient peoples who followed God.  The Bible’s history accounts tell us in detail how God worked with His people from one generation to another over thousands and thousands of years. Our Christian faith developed over the ages and came to us through God’s preparing and working through Israel and then through the Gentiles also. To throw away this rich heritage and water down these accounts as “myths” or “metaphors” is very wrong I believe.


If a small Italian child is taken from his family and later told that his parents and brothers and sisters and all of his relatives were just figments in his imagination or myths – and  metaphors, he might be confused as to his national identity and he would also lose his close identity with his family. And if we believe those who would discount the Bible stories and accounts as myths, we might become confused as to our identity in Christ and lose our way when we read God’s Word.      


If the Biblical stories of Noah and Moses and Mary and Joseph are just metaphors or myths  - then how would we know that the story of Jesus and His death on the cross is not a myth also?  When we believe that part of God’s Word isn’t real don’t we raise the question that all of it may not be real?  What parts of the Bible are myths and what parts are true in this slippery slope?  Do we pick and choose which parts we want to believe and which parts we don’t like?  Do we just believe the parts that fit in with our lifestyle and throw the rest away?


Not knowing what to say to Sue I jumped in and suggested that in the story of Noah and the flood we are judging God when we accuse Him of being evil for sending a flood to end the lives of a group of violent evil people.  According to Scripture (Genesis 6) God did this because these ancient violent people were constantly performing evil acts.  Scripture says that it broke God’s heart and He finally stopped it.  We do not judge God as if He were another person.  God is not only the Redeemer but He is also the Judge of the world.  His ways are past finding out.   


 Scripture says that “It isn’t God’s will that any should perish but that all should have everlasting life.” (2 Peter 3:9)  God is a God of love but He is also a God of justice.  He loves us too much to allow us to forever continue to ruin ourselves and others with violent and evil acts.  There will be an end to sin someday.    


 I believe that some folks reject parts of the Bible because there are accounts in the Old Testament of God judging and punishing tribes and nations who continued on and on in rampant sin.  Eventually the wages of sin is death.  But some don’t like to hear that God judges sin.    


I believe that another reason that people reject parts of the Bible is because they don’t know what the Bible says and they haven’t studied it.  One of the reasons to read God’s Word and know it ourselves is that it protects us from these false prophets.  In every age there have been people who use the Bible for their own purposes and not to build God’s kingdom.  We need to know God’s Word well enough to know when someone has an agenda that is not God’s.


Scripture says: “But false prophets arose among the people, just as there will also be false teachers among you, who will secretly introduce destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, bringing swift destruction upon themselves.”  (2 Peter 2:1) 


St. Peter warns us about our responsibility in handling God’s Word.  We are to be careful in how we interpret and teach the words of the Bible.  Those who deliberately distort God’s Word will be held accountable.  Scripture says; “…Ignorant and unstable people distort, as they do the other Scriptures, to their own destruction.”  (2 Peter 3:16) 


Another Scripture tells us: “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.”  (2 Timothy 3:16-17)   And “For the Word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.”  (Hebrews 4:12)


Martin Luther made the proclamation of “sola scriptura” – “only the Bible” - as the only authority for the Christian life.  But part of the phrase has been ignored.  He actually said, “Only Scripture rightly divided,” which means “interpreted correctly.” And Saint Jerome once said: “A false interpretation of Scripture causes the gospel of the Lord to become the gospel of man, or, which is worse, of the devil.” 


We don’t need to over analyze every word of the Bible to keep from falsely interpreting Scripture.  If we are believers in Jesus we have been given the Holy Spirit as a helper and guide and He will allow us to hear the Father’s Voice when we are reading the Word.  If we have questions concerning a Scripture we can ask God to help us understand the meaning.  And we can study the “living” Word where God reveals Himself in His words.  He gives us Himself and His love and His life to those who receive these words.  Indeed God’s Word gives us God Himself. 













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