Tuesday, January 31, 2017

How Do You Read Your Bible?

Scripture tells us that there is one faith (Eph 4:5), that was once delivered unto the saints (Jude 1:3). If so, how can it be that we see so many differing doctrines among professed believers? Why is there so much confusion over things such as divorce and remarriage, or eternal security? How about Jesus' teaching on materialism? He taught against it, but the opposite is taught by prosperity teachers today. There is much confusion within the Church over issues that should be cut and dried instead.

Much of the problem stems from how we approach the Bible. First off, let me be clear that the Bible is God's inspired word to us. From Genesis to Revelation, it is God breathed and useful for training and correction (2 Tim 3:16). The events of the Old Testament were written for our example as Christians today (1 Cor 10:6). However we also understand that not all of the Old Testament commands given to Israel are binding upon followers of Christ under the new covenant. So we must interpret God's word correctly so that we can follow it correctly.

It is common for many Christians to approach the Bible as a "flat book." That is they place equal authority upon both the Old and New Testaments. Again, while it is true that both testament are equally inspired, yet we do not follow the precepts of the Old in the same way we follow what Christ has commanded in the new. For example, most Christians are not following the dietary laws found in the law of Moses, and we are not stoning people caught in adultery, as New Testament believers.

However, when the Bible is approached this way, we can get ourselves off track. There are many verses in the Old Testament dealing with war. God allowed Israel to fight their enemies under the old covenant. We also have examples of wealthy men such as Abraham, David, and Solomon in the Old Testament. Many Christians today turn to these passages when seeking to defend their position on these two issues. The focus was on Israel, a physical nation chosen by God, so we often lose sight of the kingdom of God as found in the New Testament, blurring it with our own physical nation. In America there is a tendency to combine God and country, resulting in an overly patriotic Christianity. We also see emphasis placed upon the law, and the inability to keep it. We then turn to the epistles of Paul, and focus on the teachings of grace through faith, finding comfort in the fact that we are "covered" in spite of the fact we are living in disobedience to what God expects us to do. Sadly many are unaware of the promise found in the new covenant that will enable us to live in a manner that pleases God. Much harm has been done in the past, by professing believers, in the name of Christ, because people looked to the law instead of to the words of Jesus.

We read in Hebrews 1:1-2, that at one time God spoke through the prophets, but now he has spoken to us through His Son, Jesus Christ. Jesus is introduced to us as the "Word" in the first chapter of John.

In Matthew 17:1-8 we read of the transfiguration of Christ. Moses and Elijah appeared with Christ, talking with Him. Peter desired to build three tabernacles, one for Moses, one for Elijah, and one for Jesus. But while he spoke, a cloud overshadowed them, and a voice proclaimed out of the cloud, "This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased, hear Him." When they again looked, Jesus remained alone.

 There is much we can learn from this. Moses and the prophets had much to teach. Not only to ancient Israel, but to us today as well. We learn from them about God, His attributtes, His holiness, what He expects concerning sin and righteousness. We read of the prophets urging the nation to turn back to God in repentance, something that is vital to our own salvation today. Yet it is Jesus Christ who we follow. He calls us as disciples to lay down all, and come after Him. It is His word we are to hear and obey, His example we are to emulate. His kingdom is built upon entirely different principles than those that the nation's of the earth are built. His is a kingdom of peace, mercy, and extravagant love. While the old covenant may have made provision for war, Jesus forbids it. While men may have acquired wealth and material prosperity under the old, we are taught to give it away, as we cannot serve two masters. We must look at all of scripture with an eye to Jesus Christ, as He holds the rights to us as disciples and citizens of His kingdom. The law of Christ is our rule. This does not abrogate the old, as the moral law has been summed up by Jesus as loving God with supreme love, and loving our neighbor as ourselves. What Paul teaches about grace in no way clashes with Christ's demand for obedience, instead if one carefully reads through the New Testament epistles, you will soon see a harmony between the two. It is all about Jesus. Whether it is Old Testament or New, Jesus must be central.

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