30 Days in the Bible, Day 7: Revelation 22:6-11, 18-19
While there are many who would agree that the Bible is God’s Word, some want to define what that means in their own way. Cults may accept the Bible, but want to add other writings that are on the same level with it. Various denominations may want to add the traditions of the church as an equal authority. Others might want to ignore parts of the Bible because they are “outdated” or “don’t speak to our modern society.” You can find many ways that the Word of God is given proper lip service, but essentially rejected in practice.
There is another way that we can “add to” or “subtract from” the Word of God without going so far in our doctrine, however. If we fail to learn, understand, and apply the whole Bible to our lives, we effectively take away from its authority. By choosing which passages we want to accept and simply ignoring those we don’t, we have placed ourselves above the Word.
One example of this kind of selective acceptance of Scripture is found with many “prosperity gospel” teachers. They emphasize the promises of the Bible regarding health, wealth, and success, while downplaying or even skipping over passages that teach about trials and tribulation. In the end, they have created a new Bible, and taken Biblical teaching out of the Word as surely as Thomas Jefferson’s scissors.
Accepting the full authority of Scripture doesn’t mean that we all will agree on every point. Christians have historically disputed doctrines like predestination and the end times. All sides in these disputes, however, recognize that they have to account for the whole of Biblical teaching. You can’t make a good case for a point of doctrine by choosing a few texts and not addressing the rest. I believe we will continue to debate many points within the church, but that those involved will do so with a proper understanding of what the Bible is and where its authority comes from.
As we read and study the Bible, we need to come to it as God’s authoritative Word. We may find parts of the Bible that are confusing to us at first, and maybe even some teachings that we wish weren’t there. There will be some passages we love to study, while others may be a real challenge to us. We need to accept all the Bible teaches, and understand the focus on Jesus as Lord and Savior, if we want it to unleash its power in our life.
Sometimes we might find that the most challenging passages aren’t the ones hard to understand, but those that we can comprehend but that tell us we need to change our lives. For example, the wonderful good news of Jesus starts with bad news: we’re sinners, separated from God, and we can’t help ourselves. People don’t like to be told they’re both evil and helpless. Without that tough foundation, though, there is no gospel, no story of how Christ came to take our place and how through faith in Him we are made right with God. You may find other teachings just a uncomfortable, but remind yourself whose Word you are reading. Then ask for the power to make the changes the Word commands.
People naturally want to make themselves the ultimate authority for their own lives. The Bible has a name for this; it’s called sin, putting yourself in God’s place. As we humble ourselves to approach God’s revelation, placing ourselves under its authority and seeking to understand its teachings better, we can overcome that desire and find our place in God’s family and kingdom.