by Jeff Faull
Jesus understood the basic, even primal, need for a word from God. We’re hard-wired as humans to need communication with God. We look to Scripture for insight and direction to know what to do.
As we seek Him, we need to keep the balance, tension, and context of Scripture in mind. When Jesus went into the wilderness after his baptism by John, (see chapter 4 of both Matthew and Luke), He was attacked by Satan with temptations. Each time, Jesus shot back with Scripture. And we can’t lose sight of the fact Satan did the same in his 2nd and 3rd attacks. Satan knew, but misused, Scripture. The whole counsel of God has been given to us, and we commit equally harmful mistakes if we delete or distort its fullness, as our enemy does.
Remember that Jesus told the scribes, “Your mistake is that you don’t know the Scriptures, and you don’t know the power of God. … You have made a serious error,” (Mark 12:24, 27).
If anyone knew Scripture, it was the religious leaders of the day, the very people that Jesus accused of being ignorant in this confrontation. But the Pharisees, Sadducees and “teachers of the Law” had misused and misapplied Scripture. Jesus knew the context, balance, and tension of Scripture perfectly and it was His main resource in dealing with His cloak of humanity.
If anyone in history was justified in having an “I’m special” attitude, wasn’t it Jesus? But even He allowed Himself to be limited and defined by the Words of Scripture. He used Scripture for explaining and understanding life and human nature, to endure physical, emotional, and spiritual pain, to face and prepare for the future, in confrontations and conflict, to give direction and purpose to others. Jesus used The Word to teach, rebuke, correct, clarify, and encourage – and to reveal His identity and God’s plan.
We all know words are powerful, and nothing is more powerful than God’s Word! Jesus wielded the Sword of the Spirit with perfect precision. Scripture is indeed “a sharp, two-edged sword,” and no one ever did (or will) wield it better than Jesus. He was so saturated in Scripture that He could recall and apply it perfectly in any and every moment.
For us as church leaders, that means a few things.
First, we must absolutely, completely insist that all our content comes from the revelation of God, without compromise. The Word is God-breathed, not “community-formed.” We are shaped by it, never the other way around. Scripture does not morph to fit always-fickle culture. Let me be clear: the Bible is God’s progressive revelation to humankind, not our progressive understanding of God. Reaffirming the Bible’s authority over us is always in order. After all, isn’t that why we daily seek devotional time in it? Isn’t that why we worship weekly? We have been, are, and should be “people of the Book.” That’s an honor, not an insult.
Second, we are always fair and responsible in our use of Scripture. We must maintain a healthy hermeneutic of the whole counsel of God, refusing to play fast and loose with the text or context. We cannot hijack words or create spin for our own agendas.
Third, we must cultivate an environment in our congregations where personal gain, pride, and preferences are sacrificed to the overriding truth, beauty, and glory of God – as we know Him through His timeless, Living Word. If we commit to that, we can then confidently address all the complicated issues of our day. How do we overcome cultural and ethnic barriers? What about gender roles? How do we treat those who are different? What about immigration? How best do we respond to poverty? What’s the church’s mission? What beliefs are paramount? What practices are indispensable?
The sheer magnitude of the thinking shift in our culture, and even among fellow Christians, is sometimes overwhelming. Believers are expected to rethink and remap massive chunks of formerly settled “territory.” Many of our predecessors, older leaders and even some of our peers often feel disrespected, belittled, and out of touch. The entire evangelical world is in flux. And it’s across this landscape of upheaval we are called to lead – so let’s always have His Living Word leading us.