I never really believed anyone when they told me I would face a lot of questions and attacks on my faith when I got to college. I knew that my professors would teach ideas contrary to Scripture, that was a given. But I never for a moment believed that someone would tell me the Bible was a lie to my face.
I have now faced both ends of the spectrum, the heathen and the Christian. The heathen will get right up in your face, claim that the Bible condones domestic abuse, and tell you that your God is a monster who blames people for something they can’t help. If you try to respond with the correct understanding of the passages in question, they respond with, “Well other people disagree, that’s only your interpretation.”
The Christian attack is much more subtle. In fact, it takes the form of the most ancient attack on the word of God:
Did God really say…
This is my body and my blood? Or did he mean that it represents it?
Did God really say…
Baptism now saves you? Or did he mean a different “kind” of baptism? A work of your own?
Did God really say…
Homosexuality was a sin? Or does he want us to love everyone, and realizes (being the very woke God that he is) that love may mean different things to different people?
Did God really say…
The road is wide that leads to destruction and narrow is the gate that leads to eternal life? Or are there many roads to heaven?
The list is endless. Some may seem more innocuous than others, but in reality all of these questions undermine the very word of God, trading truth for interpretation.
We look for God everywhere except his Scriptures because quite frankly his Scriptures are uncomfortable, and they are hard to read. Sometimes they are awkward, violent, confusing, or simply outlandish. Interestingly enough, these are the same reasons that the pharisees didn’t believe in Jesus and his words during his life on earth. God’s word is often offensive, so we simply ignore the parts we don’t like.
So, where are we to find God in this confusing, offensive, translated thing called Scripture? How are we to know the correct interpretation? How are we to defend against the onslaught of attacks, and how do we explain that the Bible does not, in fact, condone domestic abuse but hates any kind of abuse and commands us to love and serve our neighbor?
There are three principles of the Scripture we must always remember:
- Christ is at the Center. Always.
- Hermeneutics matter. Even if you don’t know what that is.
- Church History helps. The early church fathers were taught by the apostles themselves, as well as Jesus’ countless disciples. The closer we get to the historical source, the more accurate our information is.
I will split these three principles of finding God in his Word into three different articles. Today, I will focus on the first one.
Christ is at the Center. Always.
A popular way to read Scriptures today is to ask yourself: What does God want to say to me? And then we begin to squirm as we read uncomfortable passages in Scripture about Judas committing suicide, women wearing head coverings, and Jesus turning over tables in the temple.
The more helpful and doctrinally sound way to read the Scriptures is to ask yourself: What does God want to say about his son, Jesus? It’s fascinating, an entirely new understanding of the Scripture opens up when you realize that the entire Bible, cover to cover, is about Jesus. It occurs in three different phases over two testaments. In phase one, the Old Testament, everything points to Christ’s coming from Genesis 3:15 onward. From the first promise of a savior to the prophets, every story points to Christ. In phase two, the Gospels, we learn about Jesus’s life and ministry. In phase three, the Acts of the Apostles, the Epistles, and the Revelation to John, we are told again and again that the Church points to Christ and him crucified.
When we learn the stories in Sunday school, we’re often taught an attribute of God or some moral lesson. These, too, are surely to be found in the Bible, and are definitely valuable. However, that is not all the Old Testament has to offer us. Every story is also of salvation. Noah and the Flood? Christ baptizing and preserving his church. David and Goliath? Christ taking on our sin and winning our salvation. Ruth and Boaz? Christ’s selfless and sacrificial relationship with his Church. Culture has taught us to look for ourselves in the stories, but Christ teaches us to look for him. How much more meaningful the history becomes when I see more than a foggy mirror image of my own daily struggles.
This gives power and objectivity to the Scriptures that so many people want to view and interpret subjectively. One of the most popular use of this technique is the story of David and Goliath. Instead of looking for Christ, we’re guided to see ourselves as David, and understand Goliath as a “struggle in my life.” This has terrible logical implications given the solution for David was to slay Goliath and cut off his head. What am I to do if the struggle in my life is that I often fight with my parents or disagree with a professor? (I’m sure you see the problem here.)
It also turns objective historical fact into little more than a fable. In Aesop’s Fables we are told simple stories (such as the dog and his bone) and taught moral lessons (don’t be overcome by greed.) In our modern form of Christianity, we have been taught to read the Bible the same way. No wonder everyone says it’s up for interpretation. But if we look for the objective truth and teaching of the Scripture—that Christ was incarnate, suffered, and died for the sins of the world—in every single part of the Bible, we begin to understand a deeper, richer absoluteness of the Scripture. This is where we begin to find God in his word.
So what does it mean to find God in His Word? It means you’re looking for Him, not yourself, when you read the Bible. It means you understand that “your interpretation” is irrelevant. There is absolute truth in the Bible, and we use Scripture to interpret Scripture, not our own feelings or bias. If you read the Bible like this, you will find God. This is where he has revealed himself. This is the unfathomable gift he has given us: his own word, promise, and gospel. We are free to hear directly from God himself through his written word. What a blessing!