What if the people of God actually believed the central doctrines that bind them together? Continuing from my last post, I want to ask this question, beginning with the core values of the church that I work for, but ultimately dreaming about the church as a whole. I want to see a people, united by God, come to full belief in the things of God, so as a personal exercise of hope and reflection, I want to draw out these lines of thought. The question I will go from today is: what if the church was actually ruled by God’s word?
“For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.” Hebrews 4:12
Why ruled by God’s word?
The Christian believes that the word of God, the Bible, is the ultimate authority on the things of God. The scriptures are not just a story book about people that have done some cool things for God, or some good teaching to have a happy life. No, the Bible is the living word of God, inspired by the Holy Spirit, written down by the prophets, and actively working in the hearts and lives of those who believe and obey it.
Scripture itself makes this claim of authority. Throughout the Old Testament, the prophets speak claiming to be messengers of God, carrying his definitive word. In the New Testament, Paul states that “all scripture is God-breathed, and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting, and training in righteousness” (2 Timothy 3:16). Jesus himself uses the scriptures given by the prophets when resisting the temptations of the devil in Matthew 4:4 when he says, “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.” Throughout the gospels, Jesus quotes scripture and refers to it as the authoritative word of God, showing that He viewed it as truth. Additionally, Peter states that “no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy spirit” (2 Peter 1:21).
To accept this claim, one must have faith that the scriptures are true, and faith is produced by the same Holy Spirit that produced the scriptures themselves (Galatians 5:22). To those who do not yet believe fully that the Bible is the true word of God, consider this. There is more evidence for the historical accuracy of the New Testament than any other ancient writings of a comparable date*, and the Bible has been one of the most closely examined and argued documents in history, yet it remains seen as an accurate account of the events it speaks of. Personally, I would trust the historical data in the Biblical texts over a lot of things found in American history books.
For those that do believe this claim, then the Bible should not just be our source for what we think about God, but what we think about all of life. If we truly believe that the all-powerful God of the universe cares enough to tell us something, we would be fools not to listen to it and obey it.
What does this look like?
To put it as simply as possible, let God’s word rule your life. “Be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves” (James 1:22). The Bible is a big book, and it includes a lot of commands and directions for how to live life. Many of the commands in the Old Testament are directions for the Jewish people living before the redemptive work of Christ. These commands were part of a covenant, an agreement of the people to live a certain way so that God would have mercy on them. Part of the good news of the Gospel is that we are no longer bound by the law. In Romans 7:6, Paul says “we have been released from the law, for we died to it and are no longer captive to its power. Now we can serve God, not in the old way of obeying the letter of the law, but in the new way of living in the Spirit.”
Following the commandments of scripture is not our source of salvation, that is the work of Jesus on the cross. Although this is true, scripture is clear that true faith pairs itself with repentance and good works. James says it most bluntly when he writes, “So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead” (James 2:17). These things are the product of the Holy Spirit working in the heart of the believer for sanctification. Living out scripture is not the Christian’s salvation, but their joy.
What should I do?
First, and hopefully most obviously, read the Bible. Many so-called Christians, especially those who have grown up in the church, claim to be following the Bible or “Biblical ideals,” yet do not read the Bible themselves or truly know what it says. This has produced a culture of Christianity that mimics the Biblical portrayal of the pharisees (check out some of Jesus’ words to them in Matthew 23:1-12). The Psalmist says in Psalm 1:2 blessed is a man who’s “delight is in the law of the LORD, and on his law he meditates day and night.” Similarly, Jeremiah 15:16 says “Your words were found, and I ate them, and your words became to me a joy and the delight of my heart, for I am called by your name, O LORD, God of hosts.” If you open yourself to spending time in the word of God, following it will become to you a source of joy.
Finally, if we are a people ruled by God’s word, then we should keep in the forefront of our sight His greatest commandments. Jesus says in Matthew 22:37-38 while quoting Deuteronomy 6:5 to “love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. This is the great and foremost commandment.” This scripture is seen both as a center piece of the Jewish practice or reciting the Shema, and is directly spoken of by Christ as the greatest of commandments. He goes on to say in Matthew 22:39, “And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”
The greatest commandments of scripture are to love God, and to love others. With these in the center of our vision, and the word of God directing our steps, the world could be changed. Imagine if every Christian radically loved those around them, and lived not in the judgement of false superiority, but in the humble pursuit of holiness under the blanket of grace offered in Christ. The world would take notice. It would not be charismatic speakers or expertly strategized movements that show the world Jesus, it would be the church, the people of God, living in obedience to God by loving like Jesus.