The Bible belongs to the Church

The Bible belongs to the Church – not the other way around. This is good news! Here’s what I mean:

  • Jesus showed the apostles that the Scriptures of Israel pointed to him and therefore they should not be bound by traditions that allowed for only one, narrow, non-Christ-centered reading of those Scriptures (Luke 24:27, 45; Acts 15:1-35).
  • This new, Christ-centered way of reading their Bibles enabled the apostles to preach the gospel, establish the Church, and even add new books to the Bible.
  • So we can see that the Bible is not the head of the Church or its governing document. The Church is a living community of the Holy Spirit, headed by Christ. The Bible is a tool given to the Church by Christ in order enable its mission and ground its theology.

Why is this good news? Because it means that we are not bound in blind obedience to words written on a page and/or the dictates of long dead believers who have interpreted those words. The Church has a living, dynamic relationship with its High Priest, Jesus Christ, through the life of the Holy Spirit, and therefore Jesus can – and does – continue to open the Scriptures to us in order to help us know him better. The Bible belongs to the Church – it is Jesus’ gift to us, for us to use, as he guides us through his Father’s Spirit. We do not belong to the Bible and the Bible does not exist to rule over us as an idol that replaces our High Priest.

Here’s an example to finish this line of thought: the Bible never explicitly says that slavery is a sin. The Bible does, however, give us a clear vision of the freedom, love, and mutual respect of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit by pointing us to the Son in the flesh as the man Jesus Christ. It is this vision of the Triune Life that enables us to see the sinfulness of enslaving another human being.

By using the Bible as the tool it was meant to be, and not allowing ourselves to be enslaved by words on a page, the Church is empowered to keep growing up into maturity in Christ.

~ Jonathan Stepp

8 comments so far

  1. tjbrassell on

    Excellent! I can hardly think of it being said more simply or profoundly in our day. Gonna share it with my entire congregation for their benefit and help! Thanks, Jonathan!

  2. Jeannine on

    So well said and explained, Jonathan. I so wish this was better understood and acknowledged by the Church – because when it is constantly thrown in my face that “the Bible SAYS” x, y, and z (literally), I had been getting to the point where my response, at least internally was beginning to be, so????

    I wasn’t altogether comfortable feeling that way. This helps. Thank you! 🙂

  3. janehinrichs on

    Wow. This is in one way radical because it isn’t what so many preach, but it is so simple and freeing and Wow — an eye opener. I like it. Thank you.

  4. Pastor Jonathan on

    Thanks, everyone for the kind comments.
    Jeannine, I know exactly what you’re talking about – been there, experienced that.
    Jane, I agree, there is something radical about these thoughts – even after seeing this for several years it still seems radical to me compared to the form of Christianity in which I grew up.

  5. Tim on

    The Bible did prophesy about Jesus the messiah. It also tells us far beyond his life on earth and the second coming of Christ. So why should we stop using the Bible any differently than before Jesus’ first appearance?

    I think that we live in an age where our “religion” tells us that we should feel alright about “who we are” (which, by the way, would be SINNERS). God the father and Jesus the son want us to be Christ-like and put away our sinful nature. Current trends in the church seem to embrace lifestyles and actions that the Bible clearly mention as sins. I’m wondering who among us walks more blindly…those who choose to follow Biblical teachings or those who interpret things to help us feel better about our weaknesses.

    Let’s say (for argument’s sake) that there are two types of “Christians”…one being a strict Bible-follower, and the other believing that things like homosexuality, abortion, partaking in fermented drink, etc., etc. are not sinful. Now…imagine being able to choose which path you believe that best pleases God. Which one would you be more content in living out, and feel more comfortable with being wrong?? If I lived believing that having sexual relations with someone of my own gender was good in His eyes and felt that Jesus would drink Budweiser if he walked the earth today, BUT WAS WRONG, I’m not sure I would like the consequences. On the other hand…If I lived believing that it is good to walk the “straight and narrow way”, BUT WAS WRONG, I’m not sure that it would put me out of God’s favor any. I’d still show love to everybody either way, but living following the Bible, could not accept sin as something we should practice.

    How about we stop trying to feel so good about ourselves as the sinful creature that we are and let God define what sin is…He’s already done that for us in the Bible. We need to quit justifying our questionable actions and try to look to God for forgiveness. Instead, the devil places the thought in our minds that “it must be alright, everybody does it” far too often. I’m afraid that I’m as much a sinner as anybody else. I just know that the only way out of it is to pray for forgiveness, and turn the other way.

    Let’s be very careful about how relaxed we get in our Christian living. God is foremost about love, but he is also righteous and just. While Jesus would welcome ANYONE to come to him, He NEVER condoned the sin. Our society teaches that discrimination is bad, but God discriminates when he keeps the sinner from entering Heaven. The Bible also states that we are to be transformed into a different creature when we accept the Lord as our savior, and to put away the things of this world. Current “Christianity” embraces the things of this world (like homosexuality and having “churh gatherings” in bars…with beer in hand). I can only imagine what God thinks about us.

  6. Pastor Jonathan on

    Hi Tim,
    Your comments raise a couple of questions for me. You suggest that we shouldn’t use the Bible any differently than we did before Jesus’ first appearing. Prior to his first appearing the Bible consisted of only the Hebrew Scriptures, but the early Church changed that and added writings of apostolic origin to the Bible, so that was a major change. Are you suggesting that the New Testament should not be part of the Bible and we should go back to the Bible as it was before Jesus’ first appearing – i.e., use only the Hebrew Scriptures?
    Also, and this is more of a side note than the main point, where in the Bible does it say that it’s a sin to drink fermented drink?

    • Tim on

      Maybe I didn’t word it quite as I should have. No, I don’t believe that we should only use the Old Testament books of the Bible. When I say that we shouldn’t use the Bible any differently than before Jesus, I guess I am saying that we still have God’s commands given to us to follow. We still have prophecies that will be fulfilled. We still need the Word of God to guide us just as it was there before Christ walked the earth. The major difference is that Jesus became the sacrifice for us. So, yes…some things ARE different (because of His coming and because of prophecies being fulfilled), yet the Bible is still God’s word just the same.

      Concerning drinking fermented drink, there are a number of references to wine in the Bible. There have been some who feel that all references to wine are as an alcoholic drink, while others say that some wine (depending on the Hebrew word used) was what we call grape juice. If some of the wine is what we refer to as grape juice, it could very easily be understood that drinking alcohol is wrong in the eyes of God.

      I searched for “what the Bible says about alcohol” on the internet. As you can imagine, there are articles on both sides of this issue. But even in the articles that argue that it is OK to drink, there is the understanding that it is “not the drinking” alone that is the sin, but the over-indulgence (or drunkenness) that constitutes a sin. So maybe to clarify my stance a bit on this issue (drinking), I personally feel that drinking alcohol is sinful and also feel that one cannot become drunk (which is widely considered sinful) if one does not drink to begin with. There is also much to be said about the testimony that we give to others if we present ourselves as one with the world instead of one separate from worldly ways. I could go on about this, but I feel that checking out the Bible itself would afford us better than to read my ramblings.

      This would be a decent place to get start with many references from the Bible about drinking alcohol:

      • Pastor Jonathan on

        Thanks for clarifying, Tim! I have a couple of more questions, then, about what you believe.
        It sounds like we’re in agreement that the coming of Jesus caused changes to be made to the Bible. How do we know that those changes were correct? How do we know that the new way the apostles interpreted the Hebrew Scriptures was correct and how do we know that the Christians living in the first century or two after the apostles chose the correct books to add to the Bible?
        Also, since you haven’t referred to any verse of the Bible that says it is a sin to drink fermented drinks, I assume that you are acknowledging that the Bible does not say that drinking alcohol is a sin. Is that correct? I ask this because I want to then ask this question: if there is no verse in the Bible that says it is a sin to drink alcohol then what is your basis for saying that you “personally feel that drinking alcohol is sinful”? It sounds to me like you’re saying “the Bible doesn’t say that drinking alcohol is a sin but I personally believe that it is.” I respect your convictions on this subject even though I may not agree with them but I’d like to understand how you’ve reached your conclusions. I think there may be a connection point for us between the way you are handling the Scriptures on this subject and what I have said in this blog post, but I would like to understand your position better before I try to draw those connections.

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