The mistake is to pare down the objective—the bottom line—the thing that we’re really all about, and to conclude it all with something like … “to follow the Bible,” and to talk about how we’re going to accomplish this great objective with something like “teaching the Bible.”
The danger, though (and I mean danger in both the best and worst ways in terms of what it will cost and what will be gained), is to make—or better yet—to accept the shocking assertion that the Christian faith is NOT about teaching, learning, studying or following the Bible. I would conclude that it was, happily, if the founder of “Christianity” ever said that it was about that. But he didn’t.
Before I go on—I am a student of the Bible. Always. Every day. When I’m in the New Testament, I am often working with the text in its original language as part of my love for my discipline in New Testament biblical scholarship. It’s part of the rhythm of my life to engage it almost unceasingly. But my understanding of my faith does not conclude with something like—“So, you see, ’round here, we follow the Bible, and we base everything we do upon its teachings.” Every church’s doctrinal statement, and lots of cults, insist that they are simply following the teachings of the Bible. Do the math yourself on how that’s going.
But when Jesus opened the ancient scrolls of the Bible (in the Bible that he had, which is different from the Bible you have), or talked about the Bible, he often seemed to say things like … “See that text? I’m the guy it’s talking about right there …” and then concluded with the most radical thing a person could ever say after reading from the Bible. And it wasn’t, “So—now, having heard the Bible, follow the Bible.” No. He said two other words. ???????e?t? µ??—akaloutheito moi—“Begin now, and then keep on continuously following behind me.” (Fun with Greek verbs!)
Having wrestled through what Jesus was all about in the decades following his ascension, one of his disciples could conclude nothing less than that God’s word had—incarnated. Everything God wanted to say to humanity, about humanity and about God himself had become a living, breathing human. And that human, talked about and presented on every page of the Bible, never said “follow the Bible” when he broke it all down. He said “follow me.”
None of this is to say that the Bible is irrelevant. Never! That is—unless we’re following the Bible instead of following Jesus (or because we think that the two things are necessarily the same thing). But it is to say that following Jesus, who is presented to us in amazing, beautiful and God-breathed ways on every page of the Bible, is the aim at the end of the day, rather than something like, “Following the Bible, which also talks about Jesus.”
For devotional reflection: Luke 4.21″ data-version=”esv” data-purpose=”bible-reference”>Luke 4:21, John 5.39″ data-version=”esv” data-purpose=”bible-reference”>John 5:39, Luke 24.27″ data-version=”esv” data-purpose=”bible-reference”>Luke 24:27, John 1.14″ data-version=”esv” data-purpose=”bible-reference”>John 1:14, Matt 16.24″ data-version=”esv” data-purpose=”bible-reference”>Mat. 16:24