After my recent blog post, sharing a friend’s testimony on how he came to value love above ‘truth’, I wanted to add in some personal observations too.
There are so many Pharisees* in Christianity today. Which is fine in one way; there were believing Pharisees in the early Church too (Acts 15:5).
But one of the main problems with today’s Pharisees is that, armed with their Bibles (unlike the early Pharisees – well, they did have Scriptures, those that could read, anyway, but they weren’t the same Scriptures…) these Pharisees have a way of ‘shutting the door of heaven in men’s faces’ (Mt 23:13) by making belief in God look so unattractive, by brandishing their Bibles, pointing out ‘sin’ in others, insisting on adherence to ‘Biblical’ Rules, and generally being obnoxious. They try to ‘evangelise’ people, and pay lip service to the ‘relationship with Jesus’, but in actuality what they are selling is more of a relationship with a book, not so much with Jesus.**
Jesus also said of these people,
“You study the Scriptures diligently because you think that in them you have eternal life. These are the very Scriptures that testify about me, yet you refuse to come to me to have life” (Jn 5:39-40).
Or, to quote the Message translation (slightly more paraphrasing, but it gets the meaning across clearly):
“You have your heads in your Bibles constantly because you think you’ll find eternal life there. But you miss the forest for the trees. These Scriptures are all about me! And here I am, standing right before you, and you aren’t willing to receive from me the life you say you want” (Jn 5:39-40 Message).
Wow, that’s tremendous .
Another way of putting this is to ask the question, “Which is the most important? Jesus, or the Bible?” Any answer other than ‘Jesus’ is bordering on idolatry (or, more specifically, Bibliolatry). Even the answer ,”Well, Jesus, but….” isn’t really any good. There is no such thing as ‘Jesus, but…’. It’s Jesus first, middle and last. Period.
I don’t even know why I should need to put this in writing, but Jesus has the primacy. Always. One bloke said to me on a forum tonight that ‘Jesus never, ever, ever contradicts the Scriptures’, missing entirely the point that I was making that sometimes Jesus contradicts our interpretation of the Bible. But actually in His earthly ministry He did indeed contradict the Scriptures. ‘You have heard that it is written…do this…but I say to you….do this instead’. And He still does this today, and I realise that will look like heresy to some. When there is a choice between Jesus’s Voice and the Bible, Jesus wins every time. I think that part of the problem is that in the same way that the Pharisees of today don’t trust others to have a relationship with Jesus, so they also don’t trust themselves to have that relationship with Him either, and therefore they miss out on so much freedom.
2Tim 3:16 is the Scripture trotted out almost every time by people trying to prove the primacy of the Bible. But it says there that ‘All Scripture is useful…‘. Not essential; but useful. If Paul had meant essential, he’d have said so!***
So how can I quote Scripture in support of my arguments, like I just did, if Scripture is not infallible? Well, I have several ideas about that which I will share in a future post. But, for now, let’s just say that when God speaks a Bible passage into a believer’s heart, that is the point at which it becomes the Word of God because it is given the life and power by the Holy Spirit. I’ll leave it at that for now.
So remember, Jesus is the point of the Scriptures. The whole idea is to point us to Jesus; after that, the Scripture changes its role to support, training, encouragement and all the other things – and more! – that are listed in 2Tim3:16 – but not as Rules, and it’s not infallible, and it’s useful, not essential.
The Scriptures are there to point us to, and teach us about, Jesus. They are not there to be revered to the point where we worship the Scriptures themselves rather than who they are about.
Jesus always has the last word!
*Historical note: Pharisees were a strict sect of Judaism in Jesus’s time who tried to be right with God through obeying lots of picky little Rules as well as the ‘big’ commandments, and they also looked down on others, non-Pharisees, who did not obey the Rules like they did. Today’s Pharisees, in the Christian sense, are those people in the Church who judge others, point out ‘sin’ in others, and generally don’t get the plank out of their own eye before trying to take a speck out of someone else’s! (Mt 7:3)
**”These people come near to me with their mouth and honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. Their worship of me is based on merely human rules they have been taught” – Isaiah 29:13, quoted by Jesus in Matthew 15:7-9
***And nowhere does the Bible itself claim to be the word of God. So actually, the idea is itself a non-Scriptural concept. Sure, God does speak through the Bible, more than any other book. But the Word of God is a Person – Jesus Christ! – and He has the supremacy (Col 1:18) It’s actually somewhere in between; yes the Bible is God’s ‘word’, but it is not all for everybody all of the time. So a passage saying to go and attack a tribe of people over there and make sure you kill all their donkeys – maybe that’s not God’s Word to you right now?