A couple of weeks ago I read an article based upon the Apostle Paul’s instruction to his protégé in II Timothy 4:2 to “Preach the word.” Even though the New Testament was not finalized at the time Paul wrote this letter, his intent was clear: preachers are to get the foundation of their teaching from the Bible.
A couple of weeks later I finished reading a short book entitled Practicing His Presence (Volume I of The Library of Spiritual Classics). I was instructed and motivated by what Brother Lawrence and Frank Laubach wrote about maintaining an awareness of the presence of Christ throughout one’s day. As good as the book was, I reminded myself that what it contained was not on par with the Bible.
Recently in a Bible class I was leading, an attendee participated in our discussion by reading from a study Bible. Remembering what I had been thinking about the last month or so I reminded the entire class that the notes in any study Bible are not on par with the actual Bible. (I also reminded them that what I say in my teaching is not on par with the Bible.)
Now there is nothing wrong with study Bibles, devotional books, commentaries, and the many Christian books available to us today. I have two study Bibles, many commentaries, theological dictionaries, books of sermons, and books on specific topics about the Bible, the Christian life, the church, and a variety of theological subjects. I consult them regularly in my teaching and preaching.
Preachers, pastors, professors, Christian authors, theologians, and others have much to offer the Christian community as well as those exploring the Bible, the Christian life, the church, and theology. All of us can greatly benefit from the thinking and writing of others about these important topics. But none of these resources are on par with the Bible.
My point in this brief article is to remind readers of what I recently reminded myself of as well as my Bible class: sermons, Bible studies, Christian books, Bible commentaries, and study Bibles are not on the same level as the Bible itself. Most of them are helpful and we need them to help us understand and apply what the Bible teaches. We need those who have studied long and hard and given themselves to teaching the Bible.
At the same time, periodically we need to be reminded that what people think the Bible says and means is not always exactly what it means and says. And my sense is that there are parts of the Bible that no one can say definitively this is what it means. On the other hand, there is much in the Bible that we can definitively say this is what it means.
We need to know the difference between what the Bible says and what different people think and believe it says. They are not always the same.
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