The Bible and Following Jesus (Pt. 2)

My conviction is that the church has received scripture as the word of God to us so that we may learn how to live as followers of Jesus who embody the gospel as participants in the mission of God. That is what I shared in The Bible and Following Jesus (Pt. 1) which requires, for many Christians and the churches they serve among, a new way of reading scripture. Such a reading involves a new hermeneutic that is Christ-Centered (Christology) and Kingdom-Oriented (eschatology). It matters because we, or at least I, want to see Christians and the churches they serve among faithfully embodying the gospel in a manner that is contextual appropriate for the circumstances they face.

i283445314525658362-_szw480h1280_So as people striving to follow Jesus, we must read the Bible as instruction for learning how to live as followers of Jesus. This matters all the more because in our ever-changing society we are facing new questions for which there are not always easy answers. I’m talking about questions surrounding realities like racism and reconciliation, peace-making in a violent society, gender dysphoria and sexual orientation, and escalating social displacement, to name a few. In order to discern what it means to embody the gospel as we face these questions, we must first read the Bible with the right hermeneutical question in mind.

Here’s what I mean. In recent months I have read a couple of articles asking the question of what does the Bible say about transgenderism and transgender-people. Now in one sense I want to say that this is a misleading question because the Bible says absolutely nothing about transgenderism and transgender-people. We know this because those words are never even mentioned in the Bible, so how could the Bible ever speak about something not even mentioned in the pages of scripture? Well, that’s easy. Indirectly, the Bible surely may speak to the questions we have on this subject just as it does so indirectly on a host of other subjects (e.g., firearms, vaccinations, climate change, etc…). So perhaps if we ask what does the Bible say about transgenderism and transgender-people, we might get an answer.

Not. So. Fast.

If we open the Bible asking this question first, we begin reading the Bible with a utilitarian goal in mind. My hunch is that most people, more traditional or progressive, who begin here in their reading of the Bible will simply discover that the Bible says exactly what they came expecting the Bible to say. That’s because such utilitarian objectives usually begin with a conclusion in mind.

As I have suggested, if we believe we are called to follow Jesus then we must read the Bible as instruction in learning how to live as followers of Jesus. This is why Paul says, “Every scripture is inspired by God and is useful for teaching, for showing mistakes, for correcting, and for training character, so that the person who belongs to God can be equipped to do everything that is good” (2 Tim 3:16-17). Scripture is neither given to us to condemn or vindicate others. That is God’s job, not our. We have received scripture to teach us, correct our mistakes and develop our character so that we are able to do good works, that is embody the gospel.

So instead of beginning with a question that asks what the Bible says about _______, I believe we should open the Bible to ask how this word from God is instructing us to live as followers of Jesus. Then we are equipped for discerning together as a church what the scripture says and what it means to follow Jesus and embody the gospel to transgender-people, or people who are living in social displacement, or people who have endured racism throughout their lives.

     “The church has received scripture as the word of God to us so that we may learn how to live as followers of Jesus who embody the gospel as participants in the mission of God.”

2 responses to “The Bible and Following Jesus (Pt. 2)

  1. Rex, I agree with you on most of this, but logically, your comment if flawed. Because Paul’s reference to Scripture was to the Old Testament, not the New Testament. Also, no where in the NT can the phrase “word of God” be a reference to the NT, since at the time, the NT did not exist.

    • I don’t disagree that Paul was referring to the Old Testament when he spoke of “all scripture, rather than the New Testament which did not exist as a canon at the time. However, I do believe we can make a theological move in extending Paul’s claim to the New Testament now that we have these writings in canonical form too. My reasoning for this theological move is the fact that the word

      The word γραφή (graphē), which means scripture or word is used in the New Testament as a description for both the teaching of Jesus (cf. 1 Tim 5.18) and the writing of Paul (cf. 2 Pet 3.15-16). Even Paul refers to his own writing as letters for churches to read (cf. 1 Thess 5:27), exchange (cf. Col 4.16), obey (cf. 1 Cor 14.37; 2 Thess 2.15), and regards them as words taught by the Spirit (cf. 1 Cor 2.13). See also George Knight III, The Pastoral Epistles: A Commentary on the Greek Text, The New International Greek Testament Commentary (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1992), 448, who offers these reasons the gospel accounts which were already in circulation as well as the Pauline writings were already considered as scripture.

      Anyway, thank you for your comment. Blessings!

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