Saturday, February 20, 2016

The True Relevance of Scripture for us Today!

But the goal of our instruction is love from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith. 1st Timothy 1: 5   New American Standard Bible
    As I sat down to write this, a discussion I had with a seminary graduate was fresh in my mind.  The graduate's position was that knowing and understanding the cultural and historical context of scripture was vitally important to understanding scripture and that without it, we cannot fully grasp the message God wants to teach us. 
    I held to the belief that contextual knowledge was good, but what was most important was the Holy Spirit's revealing of God's Word to us.  The Bible is after all, a book of books that transcends culture and history and language.  It is either a timeless series of books or it is out of date, which many today believe.  It is either cross culturally relevant to us today, or it is completely irrelevant.
    It therefore must be read, studied, and understood not merely by 'knowledge' but by the Holy Spirit as He leads us and teaches us what He wants us to understand.  It is not for us to study it and come up with our own conclusions, but for us to read and study and ask God to reveal His Word to us by the power of His Holy Spirit.  And then once revealed, to work it out in our lives.  It is a living Word, after all! 
    As I sat considering what I was to write, I began reading in Matthew.  But as I read, the Holy Spirit kept directing me to read 1st Timothy.  And that is where the whole of this discussion must be settled once and for all.  Consider well Paul's writing to Timothy: "But the goal of our instruction is love from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith."  Love is the essence of the whole of scripture as God sought to teach and lead His people.  From the very beginning, God wanted His people to love Him and walk in relationship with Him. The 10 Commandments were all about love: love of God and love of others.  If I loved others, I would not steal from them, bear false witness against them, commit adultery or kill them.  I would love them to the point of sacrifice.  Up to the teachings of Jesus and His apostles that the essence of our faith is love.  And the essence of love is Jesus Himself.
    Love cannot be taught by knowledge or by credentialed seminarians.  It is selfless sacrificial love that directed Jesus to the cross to settle once and forever the power of sin over our lives.  Love must be learned and crafted into our lives by God Himself.  We can study and dissect and discuss all we want, but God wants His people to love Him and love others, to be patient and kind, bearing others transgressions and burdens with the same love that Jesus Himself exampled.  It is love that turns the enemy into Christ's friend and makes the stranger in our midst a friend as well.  Love makes anothers interests more important than our own.
    The Bible is a living Word for us today because it speaks to our human hearts and leads us into God's paths of righteousness and love.  Cultural and historical issues are irrelevant to the believer who seeks God's life lived out in theirs.  The message is the same for us today as it was for the Parthians and Medes and Elamites, the residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, of Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the districts of Libya around Cyrene, Cretans and Arabs, visitors from Rome, both Jews and proselytes (Acts 2).  Jesus' love for mankind was what sent Him to the cross to cover our sin.
    It is a grand thing when He shows us what love can do.  Love is the only thing that truly lasts.

O Timothy, guard what has been entrusted to you, avoiding worldly and empty chatter and the opposing arguments of what is falsely called “knowledge”— which some have professed and thus gone astray from the faith.  Grace be with you.  1st Timothy 6: 20, 21  New American Standard Bible