“If God is for us, who can be against us?32 He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things? 33 Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies. 34 Who then is the one who condemns? No one. Christ Jesus who died—more than that, who was raised to life—is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us. 35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ?”
Two friends who belonged to the same church were having lunch.
“Did you see that a new Bible study is starting next week?”, one friend asked the other. “Why not join me?”
“No. Thanks anyway,” he laughingly replied. “I know the Bible is important but I like things the way they are. If I start studying the Bible, God knows what might happen!”
I think many people share the view of the man referenced above. There is a general belief that studying God’s Word is important and most within the churches would say so. At the same time there is a sense that in encountering the Bible I may be wading into treacherous waters.
Actually, the reluctant friend, adverse to opening the Bible, was on to something. There is no question that the reading or studying of Scripture can be life-altering. Opening the Scriptures is risky business. Assumptions may be challenged, ways of living called into question. In a real sense, our friend above sensed that an adversary was lurking in the pages of the Bible. And in one sense he is right.
It is my belief that this reluctance, whatever else may be informing it, can also reflect a basic misunderstanding of the heart of the faith; namely, the grace of God. Hear me out.
As a Lutheran Christian I read the Bible in the light of my baptism, in the light of the Cross. For in baptism my old self is put to death with Christ and raised to new life with Him. This means to encounter God’s Word, whether in judgment or mercy, will always be to encounter God for me. To have God’s grace in Christ affirming me means that the Word of Scripture will only be a threat to my old self-justifying self, not to the new person who is being brought along in Christ Jesus, who is justified by grace alone. When I read the Bible in the light of this unconditional grace, I may begin with the assumption that this Word of God is for me, not against me.
To be let in on God’s grace means that I am free to join Him in His judgments on the old person within me. For the new person in Christ in me, who trusts in God’s grace alone, does not want the old self to be let off the hook. I am actually anxious to see the old boy put in his place! Since there is no condemnation in Christ, I can face all accusers; ‘You cannot say anything about me that I have not already said about myself.’ The Word of God is only the adversary of the old, sinful person in me.
But more than adversary of sin, the Word of God is advocate for sinners. This means that when I read and study the Bible I am encountering the one who is for me. If you want to know what Gods thinks about you, don’t look at your bank account, health, history or nature. And don’t look at your sins. Look at Jesus Christ on the Cross. There, you see God condemning the sin in you and taking you up in His grace and forgiveness. The entire Bible is the story of this God who confronts sin for us that He may be grace for us. When we read the Bible through the lens of the Cross, we encounter God not as threat but as grace, and our lives are set free to trust.
If you have been reluctant, even averse, to picking up your Bible, I encourage you to reconsider. Make the Cross alone your lens of interpretation. And as you read, you may be confident that your merciful God will be putting the old, self-justifying you away with the crucified Jesus, even as He works to bring the new justified you to life, in the freedom of faith, with your resurrected Lord.
“May the peace of God that passes all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus our Lord.”