This past week we discussed the first two questions on p. 6: Is the Gospel an announcement of good advice to be applied, or an announcement of good news to be believed? And: Is the Word of Christ information upon which I have to act, or is that Word something that acts upon me?
Both of these questions get to the heart of how we treat the Scriptures. Is the Bible an inert book, that waits for us to read the words, figure out how they apply to our lives, and then apply them? Or are the Scriptures–as Hebrews says–a living and active word, which the Holy Spirit applies to us in order to do something to us, to give us the Truth (Christ) to believe, and to sustain our faith in the midst of all the things over which we have no control?
This led us into a discussion about how we use the Bible as individuals. We recalled that for most of Church history, individuals never had a Bible which they could open in the privacy of their own homes and read silently. They heard the Scriptures of Jesus proclaimed to them, they believed them, and the Holy Spirit brought them into the story that God is telling in the Scriptures.
We also talked about how individuals understand what they are reading. With Acts 8:31 in mind, we wrestled with how individual Christians ought to read the Bible. I made the distinction between reading the Bible as an individual member of the Body of Christ and reading the Bible as an individual isolated from the Body of Christ. It is helpful to keep in mind what is the greater danger in our particular time and place. Is it that Christians will not be able to hear the Scriptures in their own language because “the Church” is controlling the Bible and simply telling people what it says and what they ought to believe (as it was, at least in part, prior to the Reformation)? Or is it (as I believe) that individual Christians, cut off from the history of the Holy Spirit’s work in the Body of Christ, will read individual passages of Scripture out of context and figure out how the words apply and fit into their lives, as if our lives were the main story, rather than the Scriptural story?
The topic gets complicated! It is wound up with the history of how the Scriptures came to be, the challenges to the primacy of Christ in various ways, the history of interpreting the Scriptures, and many other things.
We agreed that that sort of information is probably not where we’re going to start when discussing the Gospel or the Scriptures with unbelievers! And yet, if it is in the Scriptures–all the words that testify of Jesus–then we can’t ignore the words or stop trying to increase in our understanding of them.
Join us next week as we continue our discussion!
Someone asked if I would put up a short summary of the discussion at Bible study each week. If you were there, feel free to make additions to my summary in the comments!
For three or four weeks now, we’ve been using Pr. Matt Richard‘s helpful study, “How Do We View Christianity?” which sums up two ways of looking at the various aspects of human beings, sin, free will, salvation, and more.
This past week, we looked at page 5 of the study, discussing the will and conversion (does the will participate in conversion or is it the object of conversion?), the cause of our salvation (does God save us in light of our faith, or for the sake of Christ?), and whether the main force of the Law of God is to empower us for “victorious living” or to reveal original sin in us and its fruits.
Under the second question, one thing I wanted to emphasize was that our salvation and the Christian faith are tied completely and inseparably to the flesh of Jesus. As soon as we start talking about God’s love, goodness, or mercy apart from the concrete actions of Jesus in His life, death, and resurrection, we will start to drift away from the certain promises of Jesus and into the uncertainties of our own lives and experiences.
We also talked about election/predestination and how that teaching of the Scriptures (e.g., in Romans 8 and Ephesians 1) is meant as a doctrine of comfort and Gospel, not as a teaching to encourage speculation about who is saved and who is not. (You can read more on the Lutheran teaching of Election here and here.)
Our Bible study is every Sunday immediately following the Divine Service (we aim for 11:00 am). Please join us!
In the cycle of the year, August seems to be made for “last gasps.” The last gasp of summer, the last gasp of vacation, the last gasp of freedom for children before they return to school. Unfortunately, the cycle of the year, especially the school year, has intruded on the Church. People take the summer off from church (from Christ?), the church building seems emptier, Sunday School attendance wanes.
While the issues during the summer are obvious, there is a deeper issue behind the rhythms we set for ourselves: what we teach our children. You and I know how hard it is to get back into a routine after we have been out of it for a while. We know how difficult it is for our children (and us!) to get back into the routine of getting up and going to school. It is no different with the things of God. Habits can be good or they can be bad, but we all know that bad habits come naturally to us, while good habits have to be cultivated and meticulously maintained. If you have a garden, you know about this. You cannot just let the soil of a garden do what it does naturally, and expect it to be weed-free. Wouldn’t it be nice if the plants we want would grow as quickly and easily as the weeds! (I can’t wait for the new creation.)