Seems like a silly question at first, but I believe many Christians today read their Bibles (well, at least the ones that are reading their Bibles) from the wrong vantage point. To some, it has become a self-help book, and to others, a historical narrative providing allegorical meaning to their own lives. The pervading idea is that scripture is about me, and I learn more about myself when I interact with it. And for sure, there is a grand motif woven throughout all 66 books of the Bible… an overarching theme which, when approached humbly and submissively, does in fact change the reader from the inside out. But the Bible is not about you.
When we look to Scripture wanting to find a text that will magically give us “the word we need” to get through the day, or when we approach its pages hoping to exhume from the ink some nostalgic feeling for self-indulgement, we diminish the richness of God’s revelation to us. The Bible is not a collection of self-help ideas, and it has not been revealed, compiled, protected, and preserved for thousands of years so that you can deduce from it some meaning of your own choosing. The Bible is about Jesus. Cover to cover, front to back, Genesis to Revelation. All of Scripture is about Jesus.
On this topic, R.L. Plummer has written in 40 Questions About Interpreting the Bible,
The story line of the Bible reveals the need for Jesus, the promise of Jesus, the anticipation of Jesus, the incarnation/arrival of Jesus, the teachings of Jesus, the crucifixion of Jesus, the resurrection of Jesus, the ascension of Jesus, and the promised return of Jesus. The Bible is a book about Jesus.
There are those among us who would seek to extract some kind of generally applicable ethical guidelines from scripture; they pretend that divine revelation is a social handbook, amendable and changeable from generation to generation. There are others who would approach it with malicious skepticism; they are the self proclaimed intellectual elite who boast in their “search for the historical Jesus,” heralding their own finite wisdom in the place of God’s revelation.
You would think this is a new phenomenon, brought on by the rise of postmodern thought and the length of time we are removed from the original sources/texts. But the wrongful approach to God’s revealed Word has been around as long as Scripture itself. In John 5, many Jews (the ones who knew the Scriptures) “began persecuting Jesus” (v.16) because He was shattering their boxed-in interpretation of the Scriptures. Jesus responded with a rather lengthy monologue about His importance in the thought and application of all things spiritual (that is… all things). In wrapping up His indictment against them, Jesus’ words are profound:
You pore over the Scriptures because you think you have eternal life in them, yet they testify about Me. And you are not willing to come to Me that you may have life. (vs.39-40)
Your accuser is Moses, on whom you have set your hope. For if you believed Moses, you would believe Me, because He wrote about Me. But if you don’t believe his writings, how will you believe My words? (vs.45-47)
The Bible is about Jesus. Not self-help. Not social welfare. Not human prosperity. It is not a “10 Easy Steps” guide to success or health. It tells the story of redemption, start to finish. From Page 1, the Bible tells the story of redemption in Christ Jesus. To remove Him or His redemptive work from its pages is to cheapen the Truth that God has so graciously given.
So what does that mean for you?…
1) Don’t just open the Bible and hope that a self-help text will pop out at you. Study it. Learn the whole Bible. The Word of God in its totality speaks to the whole man. When we come to know Jesus and His redemptive history through the pages of Scripture, our lives are necessarily transformed from the inside out. There is no shortcut to sanctification.
2) Look for Jesus on every page, and in every story. When you are reading through the Old Testament historical narratives, poetry, prophecies, law codes, or sacrificial procedures, ask yourself, “What does this teach me about Christ?” The more frequently you look for Jesus in the Bible, the more skilled you will become at seeing Him.
3) Study in community with other believers. One of the easiest ways to nurture destructive false doctrine is to interpret Scripture on your own without any accountability from the Christian community. Every one of us is susceptible to misinterpreting Scripture. God has given us a Christian community – the Church – in which to learn about Him and grow in Him. Find a church which teaches the Scripture. There are lots of self-help, motivational speakers parading around as pastors and teachers these days. Find a church that will get you into the Word, and learn together with them.
4) Expect to be challenged and resolve to change. The more we learn about Christ, the more we are confronted with our own sinfulness and rebellion. Coming to know Christ through the pages of Scripture will require us to change ourselves so that we can become more like Him. R.L. Plummer wrote, “The biblical authors do not envision a situation in which someone can affirm the correct meaning of the Bible and at the same time refuse to obey it.” Coming to know Jesus more and more demands that we “obey His commands” (John 14:15).
Now… stop reading blogs and go read your Bible. 🙂
Grace and Peace,