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Sunday, October 03, 2010

The Bible is Not An Answer Key

Epistle: I Cor. 1:4-9
Gospel: Matt. 22:34-46

Growing up in home with a teacher wasn't always easy. We couldn't get away with as much because Mom knew all the tricks. At the same time, I learned early one of the tricks of teaching: All of Mom’s school books had the answers in them. They were usually in the back of the book or embedded in the margins. This was the teacher's Answer Key.

Of course, one problem was also that I never took any of the classes my Mom taught.

There are people who would use the Bible as an answer key. There are some who always need the right answer: When is Christ returning? How do you baptize people? When should Church be (Saturday or Sunday)? Should women speak in Church? Etc.

Some want to use the Bible to exclude the "wrong ones." For Catholics the issue is Communion. They're nice about it, but unless you're one of them, you're out. There are “closed groups,” like the Amish who want to stay separate from worldliness. Other splinter groups within denominations use the Bible to prove their point.

There are also some who use the "Answer Key" to practice religious “one-up-manship.” These folks like to say, "I know this and you don’t."

What does the Bible say about itself?

The Lord gives us an example in today's Gospel: The Law of Love is the filter for understanding the Bible. When queried by the teachers of the Law, “Love the Lord your God” and “Love your neighbor” were not the answers they expected.

What they expected was for Jesus to take sides, with either Sadducces or Pharisees. In Matt. 22:15, just a few verses before today's reading, it says that "they laid plans to trap Him."

Even better for them would have been for Jesus to trap Himself. They looked for a chance to say, "Well, Jesus, you said this in Galilee and now you're saying that here." Or, "We thought we heard you say this and now you mean that?"

These teachers of the Law sought to align Jesus with one or the other of them by creating a hierarchy of which verses meant more than others – the Law, the Prophets, or the Wisdom literature? But Jesus uses the filter of love to demonstrate to them that "all the Law and the Prophets" hang on loving God and loving their neighbor.

Another thing the Bible says about itself is that it is intended to bring us to Christ. We have this printed on the back of our weekly bulletin for everyone to see: The Bible is the schoolmaster to bring us to Christ (Gal. 3:24).

Instead of being an "Answer Key," the Bible tells us that the Answer is Jesus Christ and the Bible is our guidebook to Him. Without the Answer (Jesus Christ) everything else is simply argument.

We should be clear about this: The Bible doesn’t save us – Jesus Christ does. The Bible wasn't crucified for us. The Bible didn't descend into hell. The Bible didn't raise again on the third day or ascend into Heaven. Jesus Christ did. The Bible shows us the way to salvation through Him.

Another aspect of the Bible is that is is a light, “a lamp unto my feet” (Psalm 119:105). I remember seeing an Amish farmer on Whitley Road leading his horses and hay wagon in the pitch dark. All he could see was the glow of that light in about an eight foot radius. But that's all he needed to see to get his team home.

Jesus Christ is the Light of the World and we walk in the daylight of God’s light. The Bible – a lamp unto my feet – a flashlight for finding our way in the darkness until we get to the Light – who is Jesus Christ

Finally, we understand that the Bible is inspired (II Tim. 3:16), which means "God-breathed." It should be treated as inspired, not a quiz book or novel. The same Holy Spirit Who inspired the Bible is that same Holy Spirit
Who inspires you.

Inspiration transcends what we understand to help us understand things by faith. Things that are hard for our maodern skeptical minds are understood by faith in God's inspiration, from miracles – Red Sea Crossing, the Resurrection - to Christ's difficult teachings – heaven and hell, sin and justification.

How do you understand the Bible? Is it God's written word, your guidebook to Christ? Instead of using it as an Answer Key, do you know Him who is the Answer?