Our electronic devices allow us to have the Bible in our hands and to have search engines by which we can find any word or verse instantly. The danger is that we think we have and know God’s Word. But it is God who has us, never we who have God. God is always the actor, savior, unconditional-eternal-lover.
It is in God that we trust, and the very heart of God is Jesus, and the very purpose for which Jesus came was to die on a cross. It is there, in Jesus’ crucifixion – in an execution designed to be humiliating and the slowest, most drawn out, and cruelest form of killing someone – that is God. God is not about control, power, and being pleased as we would do if we were God. But God is about weakness, suffering, love, and commitment for us.
The Bible as means
The Bible is important as are Baptism and Communion (which we call sacraments). But the Bible did not die for us. Baptism, Communion, and the Bible do not save us! They are all “means of grace”. That is, they are the means, ways, tools by which God comes to us, communicates with us, and gives us Jesus and the gifts and promises of God. These “means of grace” (the Word & Sacraments) lead us to and give us God. But the object of our faith is always God and a God who does all – sheer grace – for us!
Read with humility – that God may form us!
As humans we want to add to that. Surely there is something we must do. Perhaps we can make the water clean and a good temperature for Baptism. We get bent out of shape on how the bread becomes the Body and the wine the Blood of Jesus. NO! The wonder is God changing us, not the bread and wine, that God makes us into the Body of Christ and washes us with his very blood. In the same way we think taking the Bible literally is somehow better and more pure.
In Mark 9:43,45,47, Jesus states, “If your hand causes you to stumble, cut it off; it is better for you to enter life maimed than to have two hands and to go to hell, to the unquenchable fire.
45 And if your foot causes you to stumble, cut it off; it is better for you to enter life lame than to have two feet and to be thrown into hell. 47 And if your eye causes you to stumble, tear it out; it is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye than to have two eyes and to be thrown into hell.”
If we take the Bible literally we will all have no hands, no feet, no eyes! The Bible is not the end in itself, the object of our belief. The Bible is the means of grace for through it we are brought to God, to Jesus, and to all the promises, gifts, and grace of God in Jesus.
It is important in understanding God’s Word and Sacraments that we do not elevate the human and denigrate the divine. Jesus is completely human like us; Jesus is not a superman; Jesus felt pain, emotions, and human limits. Because Jesus is fully human, Jesus knows and understands us. Yet Jesus is also completely God! In Jesus we meet the fullness of God loving, saving, and claiming human beings! Because Jesus is fully God, Jesus does save us.
The water in Baptism is ordinary water, it is not holy water, but in that ordinary water God personally gives us everything Jesus won in dying and rising so that our sins are washed away and we are birthed anew. The bread and wine in Communion remains bread and wine but Jesus who we remember and celebrates makes us the Body of Christ and the Blood of Christ cleanses our sin. And, yes, God spoke and used ordinary human beings with their human understandings of science and history. The wonder is not in the “means” – the water, bread and wine, or the book. The wonder is that through them God works to save, forgive, love and claim us.
Word of God
Grace makes a big deal about this Introduction to the Bible! Whenever you hear “Word of God” we want you first to always think of Jesus. God’s Word is Jesus loving you, dying for you, raised to life, saving you.
Next we want you to think community. The Bible is not an electronic device and a search engine so each individual can find what they want to warp it to “my” word. We need a large community including people of different cultures, colors, backgrounds, languages to work with us in grasping this Word of God so that it is truly a living Word in action as Jesus loving others as Jesus loves us.
Last, think of “Bible”. The Bible is our source and norm for faith. It is what guides what we know and believe. But it is a “means”. The object of our trust is God. It is God who saves, acts, and loves us.
This Bible Introduction is important to Grace Lutheran so that you trust Jesus, guided by a super large community of Christians, that leads you into the amazingly old and completely relevant Bible so that you live God’s Word in being the love of Jesus to others.