How to Read Scripture
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In the Parable of the Talents, Jesus pictures God investing in us. The investments are gifts of his grace that empower us to bear fruit for his kingdom. One of those great gifts we enjoy is the wide accessibility of the Bible in English, with high literacy rates, and the ability of pastors to be educated in the languages and backgrounds of Scripture. Not all Christians in our world have this “5 talent” situation, but we do. How can we invest these talents to bear fruit?
Before we look at that question, we have to lift a few burdens. First, not all of us are expert Bible scholars, and that’s okay. As the Church Father and Bible Scholar Tertullian said, “Your faith has saved you, not your skill in the Scriptures.” Second, the Bible’s main purpose is actually not to be a collection of moral tales which help us cope with life, although it does provide that. Third, the Bible that we use has numbered chapters and verses so that we can find specific places. However, it is not intended to be broken down into minute, numbered lines which overwhelm us. Having lifted those burdens, we can be free to engage with the Bible in the way the Holy Spirit inspired it.
The story of the Road to Emmaus in Luke 24 is one place to start. Here Jesus goes through all of the Old Testament, Moses and the Prophets to show how they revealhimself. That’s right, the Old Testament’s purpose is to reveal Jesus Christ!
John 3:16 is really the key to all of Scripture:”For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish, but have eternal life.”
We will not always understand all of the details of Scripture, and there are many confusing places. But the main point is to prepare the world for the coming of Christ, to reveal that coming, and to call all men to salvation in him.
The story of Joseph in the book of Genesis is a great place to show how the Bible works. Joseph can be read as a moral tale, of patience, trust, and humility. And it is useful to see it that way, but to only see it that way misses the main point. To get a handle on the big picture, lets review Joseph’s story. He is loved by his father, but misunderstood and resented by his brothers. He is put in the ground, left for dead. He is falsely accused and put again in the ground in jail. Then by a miracle he is raised up to the King’s right hand. He uses his position of power not to destroy his brothers, but to save them. In fact, he saves his own Hebrew family, along with the Egyptians by storing up and distributing grain to everyone. He places his family in a safe place in Egypt, along with the Egyptians.
Sound familiar? Jesus is loved by the Father, but his own people and all people misunderstand him. He comes to the earth but is misunderstood, resented, and finally crucified and buried. By a miracle of God he is raised up and seated at God’s right hand. But instead of using his power to destroy us, he uses it to save us. Jew and Gentile, together living in reunion with God and each other. He provides for us from the storehouses of his grace.
The Holy Spirit inspired Scripture, so these historical stories are true, they are related to us through the People of God and the language and culture of their day. Not all the details directly relate in every way. And yet they are given to us to prophetically reveal God’s love for us through the incarnate Son.
This is our family history, the good, the bad, and the ugly. Its all there, and Scripture doesn’t hide away from the truth. But also there is God’s intervention in our history, bringing about reconciliation from alienation. The individual stories of each human being (ours too!) intersect with the family history of the human race, and all flow back to Jesus Christ.
We bear fruit when we experience these stories in light of the big story, allowing the love of God to be told to us again and again. We are transformed when the Holy Spirit opens our ears to truly hear and believe that God does indeed love, forgive, and heal us. And when we listen to the stories of those around us, and tell the story of God’s love, they are called from estrangement from God’s family back to restoration and peace through Christ.
“Blessed Lord, who caused all holy Scriptures to be written for our learning: Grant us so to hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them, that we may embrace and ever hold fast the blessed hope of everlasting life, which you have given us in our Savior Jesus Christ; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.”
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