It is a source of joy to remember that in the midst of our humanity God’s word breaks in on our words and grips us in a way that human words do not.
Our initial relationship to the Bible is that of faith. By faith we accept the Bible as the Word of God to us. I have a simple definition for faith which has been helpful to me through the years. Faith is taking everything you know about yourself and committing it to everything you know about God. Every time we pick up the Bible to read it, we are acting on faith.
Martin Luther’s life well illustrates this commitment of faith. Luther, above all, wanted to find God, and he began his journey as a monk, trusting falsely in salvation by works. In 1510 he traveled to Rome by foot, a distance of 800 miles, and in the basilica of St. John Lateran he ascended on his knees the sacred stairs believed to have been trod by Jesus in Jerusalem. Surely, he thought, he would find God in Rome by such acts of contrition. But Luther left Rome a disappointed and disillusioned man. He next turned to scholasticism, and then to ruminations about the doctrine of election, still without assurance.
But in 1514, reading in Romans, his eyes fell on 1:17: “The righteous will live by faith.” Luther’s tortured pilgrimage ended. All was settled. He knew himself as a child of God by grace. God’s Word spoke to him clearly through the Bible. Luther came to know both himself and his Christ through the Word of God, and he was obedient to that Word.
The heart of our relationship to the Bible is our realization that Jesus Christ is the center of Scripture and the focus of the Christian faith. The lasting value of the written Word, the Bible, is that it points as an everlasting sign to the enfleshed Word, Jesus Christ, the center of Scripture.
What results from our relationship with the Bible? One word will do—obedience. The sure mark of the Christian is not spirituality. Martin Luther and John Wesley demonstrated intense spirituality before they were saved. The clear sign that we are Christians is that we obey the Word of God. William Booth wrote:
“I want to see a new translation of the Bible into the hearts and conduct of men and women.”
We approach the Bible by faith. The heart of our relationship to the Bible rests in the recognition that Jesus Christ is the central Word in God’s Word. And the result of our relationship to the Bible is to act out obediently and ethically the mandate of that Word.
Roger J. Green, The Salvationist Pulpit