Tuesday, December 12, 2017

What or Whom

"...because I know whom I have believed and am convinced that He is able to guard what I have entrusted to Him until that day." 
2 Tim. 1:12.

Is your faith based on a what or a whom? For Paul it was the Person Jesus Christ. Through their intimate personal relationship, Paul was confident of God's leadership and guidance. He needed this when placed in situations where social and cultural norms collided with his faith.

In his endeavor to be all things to all men Paul didn't flip-flop theologically in order to be politically correct and non-offensive. With Christ's help in setting boundaries Paul integrated himself into society. As opposed to adopting a confrontational approach - "I'm right and you dummies are wrong!" Paul looked for natural openings to share the Good News.

Acts 17 covers Paul's trip to Athens. Exploring the city Paul discovered an interesting fact about the residents - they were very religious people. When he found the altar to the Unknown God (no harm covering all the bases) he used it to his advantage. Instead of chiding the people for using worship as an insurance policy, Paul took this as an open door. And did he have Good News for them! Paul personally knew this Deity and was happy for the chance to introduce the Athenians to Him. This was possible because Paul knew Whom, and not just what he believed. His foundation was Jesus.

While doing doctoral studies at St. Andrews in Scotland, Baxter Kruger attended a lecture by one of the early editors of well known, popular Christian magazine. This gentleman was a well-respected individual in the evangelical community. Kruger was stunned at the speaker's concern for this group. In this man's opinion, evangelicals had placed the Bible (the written Word of God) in a higher position of esteem and authority than Jesus - the real Word of God. Unconsciously they'd slipped into worshipping the book and not the author. How had that happened?

The principle of Sola Scriptura is an outgrowth of the Reformation. John MacArthur on www.ligionier.org presents an excellent explanation of this from an evangelical viewpoint and with a great sense of humor.

"Sola Scriptura simply means that all truth necessary for our salvation and spiritual life is taught either explicitly or implicitly in Scripture. It is not a claim that all truth of every kind is found in Scripture...for example, Scripture has little to say about DNA structures, microbiology, the rules of Chinese grammar and rocket science."

What Kruger understood the speaker to say was that inadvertently the Bible had become the "gold standard" for revelation as opposed to personal revelation from Jesus Himself. Relationship was with a text not a person.

To be clear, I love the Bible. I have plenty of them in all sizes, shapes and flavors, hard and soft bound and even electronic. Since I don't read Hebrew, Greek or Aramaic I'm at the mercy of the translators and their personal biases (and they do have them...we all do).

Paul and the early church didn't have Bibles because they didn't exist. Jewish believers may have possessed a familiarity with the Old Testament and even owned a small portion or two of it. But the Gentiles who quickly joined their ranks were clueless, which was not necessarily a bad thing. Early believers trusted Holy Spirit to guide them into truth, and they needed all the help they could get. There were heresies, false doctrines and opposition aplenty.

In my opinion, Sola Scriptura was a necessary but an over correction to curb abuses in the church. Dependency shifted back to the Bible as a book of rules and regulations as opposed to an unfolding revelation of the nature and character of God. Early on I was taught to solely trust Scripture and to be suspicious of personal revelations received by direct interaction with God. Best leave that to the professionals.

Paul upset the balancing act, tipping the scales in favor that the Word is a Person as opposed to a book. He believed Christ was the more capable of the two to keep him in line when navigating uncharted waters. Jesus was Paul's Sola Scriptura - the true living Word of God.

How about you? Is your faith based on information and knowledge gleaned solely from the Bible (which is a great place to start) or on Jesus the Author and Finisher of your faith? When was the last time you asked God to weigh in on a matter, and then searched the Bible for a confirmation of what you'd heard? Do you find it easier to use the Bible as a how-to manual as opposed to interacting with Father, Son and Holy Spirit whom are full of surprises?

Whatever you do...don't ditch your Bible! However, don't use it as a substitute for an intimate, personal relationship with God.