By Father Keith
In this past Sunday’s sermon from Matthew 10:40-42, I demonstrated that when Christ sent out the twelve apostles, they were sent out with His authority. They also had the authority of the entire Old Testament behind them including all of The Law (first 5 books of the Old Testament), The Prophets (Joshua to Malachi) and The Writings (Psalms, Proverbs, Job, Ecclesiastes Song of Solomon) of the Old Testament—Christ Himself was the fulfillment of all of these.
I next addressed how the present day Church and her congregants have received the authority of the whole Bible including The Gospels and the letters of The Apostles by saying:
“There is a battle raging in our culture today stronger than ever . . . and whether we like it or not, we as Christians are going to have to make some hard-faith-based-choices concerning the Bible. You can either stand under the Word of God; trusting that it is God’s authoritative, loving, self-expression and revelation of Himself to the world. Or you can go along with the skeptical culture and try to stand over the Word of God, picking and choosing, and trying to explain away the parts you don’t like, cannot reconcile, or that make you uncomfortable.”
I then made a point of application: How are we then to read and accept the authority of the Bible today and hear the voice of the Lord?
Bishop N.T. Wright in his work, “Scripture and the Authority of God” offers these 5 suggestions to get started [and I have taken the liberty of adding to these] to help us (1) be relevant to the culture and (2) faithful to the foundation of The Law, The Prophets, The Writings, The Gospels, and The epsitles and teachings of The Apostles:
1. Read the Bible in the Bible’s Context—DO NOT read our present context back into the Bible. We do this by reading and studying each word in each verse, each verse in each chapter, each chapter in each book, and each book in its original historical, and canonical setting, letting the Bible speak for itself as best we can.
2. Read Liturgically—Reading the Bible aloud during corporate worship and hearing the Word of God read aloud challenges the powers of the world, the flesh, and the devil that we all struggle with, and the biases, prejudices, attitudes, and assumptions we tend to bring with us into the worship setting. Don’t omit the hard parts, i.e., the parts that are harsh, hard to understand, that you don’t like, or make you uncomfortable.
3. Private study—study for yourself, but NOT only by yourself. Compare what you are reading and learning with others. Doing that will keep us balanced and theologically orthodox.
4. Allow our readings of Scripture to be refreshed by appropriate scholarship—avoid the free-floating speculation. DO the hard work of discovering what the writers actually meant in their day and how what it meant in their day directly corresponds to our day.
5. Allow yourself to be taught by the Church’s accredited tradition and leaders. Be discerning about who is teaching you The Bible. Would you go to a Dr. who hasn’t been to medical school?—probably not. Likewise it’s not wise to entrust the eternity of your soul to just anyone. Be willing to sit under bishops, priests, pastors, deacons, and qualified lay persons who have been tested by the Church and can teach the Scriptures faithfully.
All of us come to the Bible with presuppositions, assumptions about the way the world is and should be, and a whole host of mixed motives operating under the surface that we are seldom aware of when it comes to accepting the authority of the Word of God.
May we as the Church receive with open hearts the authority of the apostles contained in the Word of God, for the Word of God reveals Jesus Christ, it reveals your salvation, and it reveals the foundation of the Church.