Friday, November 06, 2015

Why The Bible Is More Than Just Blessings And Promises

Photo Credit: Chineka
It may be surprising to many modern day Christians but the Bible was not initially written in the manner in which most of us receive it today. Not only was it written in languages that many Americans do not speak (Hebrew, Aramaic and Greek), but it was originally transcribed without the headings and numbered chapters and verses that are now normally found within the Holy Scriptures. Though these elements add convenience for us in locating certain passages of Scripture, this division of God's Word can have unintended consequences.

In his book The Blue Parakeet: Rethinking How You Read the Bible, Scot McKnight comments on the danger that can be found when instead of viewing the Bible in context as we relate to our place in God's grand story, we mainly pull verses out of context simply for our own benefit. McKnight says this:
"Dividing the Bible up into verses turns the Bible into morsels and leads us to read the Bible as a collection of divine morsels, sanctified morsels of truth. We pause for each one to see if we can get something from it. Now I want to meddle with a significant problem. For some morsel readers of the Bible, the Bible has become a collection of morsels of blessings, and we can write one out for each day of the week. Random verses, with generosity poured on top of generosity. On other calendars we get, instead of a blessing, a promise each day. Random verses, with blessing on top of blessing or promise on top of promise. (No one has yet composed a Wrath of God Calendar of Warning, though some seem poised to begin making such a calendar.) 
What happens to the Christian who reads the Bible, day after day and week after week, as little more than a collection of morsels of blessings and promises? For one, everything is good and wonderful and light and airy. These people become optimistic and upbeat and wear big smiles...until something bad happens, until they enter into a period of suffering and feel distant from God, or until they hit a wall. For every hill, there is a valley. 
One of the most important things about the Bible is that it tells realistic truth. Sure, there are kinds of wonderful blessings surrounding Abraham, Moses, David, and Paul...and there are also days of doubt, defeat, disobedience, and darkness. David was on top of the world at times, but he also asked God this question: "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?" (Psalm 22:1). Edith Humphrey, a New Testament scholar, made this important observation of what happens when we focus solely on blessings and promises: "It is unfortunately the case that some contemporary expressions of Christianity have forgotten, or are embarrassed by, this moment of dark reflection, and instead espouse an unrealistic and warped view of spiritual victory." She also speaks of the "relentlessly upbeat" moods that lead to "false security and canned joy." 
It is important to know the blessings and to rely on God's promises. Please don't misunderstand my point. But the blessings and promises of God in the Bible emerge from a real life's story that also knows that we live in a broken world and some days are tough. The stories of real lives in the Bible know that we are surrounded by hurting people for whom Psalm 22:1 echoes their normal day. 
Those who read the Bible as story refuse to cut up the Bible into morsels of blessings and promises because they know the Story. They know that the David who found God's blessing and trusted in God's promises knew the dark side of life. Imagine how the God of the universe, who chose for some reason to communicate with us in the very thing that makes humans so distinct - sophisticated language in the form of story covering spans of time - must respond as he observes his people seeking random sayings! It's a wonder that God at some point hasn't made the words disappear from the page, so that we open our Bibles up and nothing but blank paper stares us in the face. We deserve it."
Yes, the Bible does contain blessings and promises that can bring encouragement to our days. But it is so much more that. When we "cherry pick" verses to fit our agenda, we do a disservice to the great story that God has given to us through His Word.

1 comment:

Steve Finnell said...


The prevailing thought of many is that since the Bible was not canonized until sometime between 300 and 400 A.D. that the church of Christ did not have New Covenant Scriptures as their guide for faith and practice. That is simply factually incorrect.

The Lord's church of the first 400 years did not rely on the man-made traditions of men for New Testament guidance.

Jesus gave the terms for pardon 33 A.D. after His death and resurrecting. (Mark 16:16) All the words of Jesus were Scripture.Jesus did not have to wait for canonization of the New Testament in order for His word to be authorized.

The terms for pardon were repeated by the apostle Peter 33 A.D. on the Day of Pentecost. (Acts 2:22-42) The teachings of the apostles were Scripture. The words of the apostles were Scripture before they were canonized.

The apostle Peter said the apostle Paul's words were Scripture. (2 Peter 3:15-16...just as also our beloved brother Paul , according to the wisdom given him, wrote to you, 16 as also in all his letters, speaking in them of these things, in which are some things hard to understand,which the untaught and unstable distort, as they do also the rest of the Scriptures...

The apostle Paul's letters and words were Scriptures when he wrote and spoke them. Paul did not have to wait for canonization to authorize his doctrine.

John 14:25-26 'These things I have spoken to you while abiding with you. 26 But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to you remembrance all that I said to you.

The words and writings of the apostles were Scripture and they did not have to wait for canonization to be deemed authoritative. The apostle did not use man-made creed books of the church or man-made oral traditions to teach the gospel of the New Covenant.

Did the early church have written New testament Scriptures? Yes, and they were shared among the different congregations. (Colossians 4:16 When the letter is read among you, have it read in the church of the Laodiceans and you, for your part read my letter that is coming from Laodica.) Paul's letters were Scripture and they were read in different churches.

They were New Testament Scriptures long before they were canonized.


Matthew A.D. 70
Mark A.D. 55
Luke between A.D. 59 and 63
John A.D. 85
Acts A.D. 63
Romans A.D. 57
1 Corinthians A.D. 55
2 Corinthians A.D. 55
Galatians A.D. 50
Ephesians A.D. 60
Philippians A.D. 61
Colossians A. D. 60
1 Thessalonians A.D. 51
2 Thessalonians A.D. 51 or 52
1 Timothy A.D. 64
2 Timothy A.D. 66
Titus A.D. 64
Philemon A.D. 64
Hebrews A.D. 70
James A.D. 50
1 Peter A.D. 64
2 Peter A.D. 66
1 John A.D. 90
2 John A.d. 90
3 John A.D. 90
Jude A.D. 65
Revelation A.D. 95

All 27 books of the New Testament were Scripture when they were written. They did not have wait until they were canonized before they became God's word to mankind.

Jesus told the eleven disciples make disciples and teach them all that He commanded. (Matthew 28:16-19) That was A.D. 33, They were teaching New Covenant Scripture from A.D. 33 forward. The apostles did not wait to preach the gospel until canonization occurred 300 to 400 years later.