celebrating the unity and division of the Bible


It was in wisdom that God gave us the Bible as a series of separate but unified books delivered at different times and to different people. A single wholly created sacred text would be to easily isolate to a single space and time, speaking perhaps to one group of people but hardly to other contemporary people and certainly not to later generations removed by years. Consider the book of Leviticus. If that were a whole sacred book what use would it be to anyone outside of the Jewish community of antiquity. So it is with the book of Ruth or Joshua. But taken in a divine unity we understand that even as a particular book does not speak for us it can and should speak to us, inform us and influence us. Thus Lamentations, the law book of ancient Israel gives us a foundation to understand the New Testament fulfilment of the law in Jesus Christ. Further we see in Lamentations governing rules for a wayward people we can only understand when we have read and understand Exodus and by reading Genesis we know that this wayward people, the Jews are not an isolated people but are inheritors of the fall from grace in the garden. This tells us that while the Jews were a people set apart they are a part of something more. A part that we see reconciled back to the whole race of man through Jesus Christ.

There are two ways to consider this rather complicated thought process. Some argue that the Bible was written for us but not to us. I agree but also see no conflict with the alternative that says the bible was written to us, and for us, but not to of for us exclusively. It is a mistake to believe the Bible’s purpose was to tell a story only to one group of people at one place in time and geography and that the best we can claim is that those truths have been passed down to us as if the jeweled truths within the Bible were leftovers from past inhabitants of our house. No, I say. The truths of the bible are fresh and new, speaking to and for our religious ancestors in Israel even as they speak fresh and new to and for believers today. As the Gospel of John says, and I will paraphrase from multiple translations…

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He, being Jesus Christ was with God in the beginning and all things were made through Him. In Him (Jesus Christ) was life and that life was the light of mankind.

This is a testament to the ever presence of our lord Jesus Christ, pre-eminent of all things. If this were the sum of Christ’s being then we could easily enough relegate even Him to a single place in time. But we are told in John 14…

You will know that I am in my father, and you are in me, and I am in you. This is the indwelling of Jesus Christ. The “Word” that was at the beginning indwells in each of us, making us each a part of the story and because we are each made part of the story just as we are grafted onto the living tree, so the story transcends time and place, speaking both to the past and to the present, to the Jew and the Gentile alike, equally though differently.

It is this timeless appeal that has made the Bible enduring and that has allowed the truths within to spread around the world and unto every generation remarkably intact with only minor textual errors. In fact a person reading the gospel of John or Romans today would read the same words our 1st century forebears read. The only difference being how we might interpret those words. We might argue over the exact meaning of this or that word, or debate context but the honest scholar will be forced to admit the Bible, as a work of ancient literature remains intact and largely unaltered.

In other words, it says what it says today because it said it in the past.

The meaning however is often left to us and this is a good thing, it is through Jesus Christ alone that we have faith, but it is through argument and debate with ourselves, with the text and with others both friendly brothers in the faith and others outside the faith with whom we disagree and with hostile forces outside the faith with whom we are tempered. In is this way our faith might be better tested just as Job was tested in his arguing with God, or Abraham was tested in arguing with God.

We are people of the book, the gospel is not only the story of what once happened, but what is still happening. We are in a sense the fifth gospel author Ian Caldwell speaks of. The truths in the Bible may seem to be far removed from our modern problems and concerns but the reality, if we understand it properly is this… We are all part of the fallen race of Adam, inheriting his fall from grace even as we continue to enact his fall in our own lives. This is what it means to live under Adam’s sin. Not that we are guilty because once, long ago, one man sinned. But because through that one sin, sin entered the world and each of us respond to it. The child of a war torn country might seek peace, but his heart is bent to the motions of conflict. The child of abuse may desire safety, but he must live in his world, not the world he would like to live in. We sin because we each desire to embrace the illusion of absolute freedom and moral autonomy that was the promise made long ago by the serpent, real or metaphorical it doesn’t really matter. If any one of us were there, we would each choose to do exactly what Adam chose to do thus as the old saying goes, as Adam sinned, so sinned we all. And this brings me to a closing thought. Because sin entered the world, and it is sin from which Jesus Christ saves us then we must understand properly that the Bible is the story of that journey through sin into the embrace of our savior Jesus Christ. Samson, Ruth, Joshua, Job, Abraham, Lot, Abimelech, Paul, Peter, Mary, each of them, the good and the bad are participants in a story that means something. You and I are a part of that story as well. It speaks to us and for us just as it spoke to them. Mary, when confronted with her miraculous pregnancy could embrace the promises of the Old Testament. Paul could be empowered to proclaim the new gospel because he found the in the Old Testament foundational truths. Abraham pointed to Jesus, and Jesus pointed back to Abraham even as he pointed to the heart of Peter or John, and even as he points to my heart and your heart today.

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