Friday, June 17, 2005

Jesus' words in red

A while back a group called the Jesus Seminar decied to colour code the Bible. Marking some parts as true, others as maybe true.... and some stuff as untrue. They took scripture and stood over it to determine which bits they were prepared to keep.

Evangelical's often read the Bible as if some bits are more important than others. A few books will appear very dogeared in most Bible's which others are untouched. We're good with the gospels and some of Paul's letters but much of the rest stands neglected.

And then there are Jesus' words in red editions. These Bibles highlight the words that Jesus said by putting them in red text rather than black. On the surface this is fine, but actually its a problem.

What it ends up doing is to say that the words in Bible that matter most are the ones that Jesus said. But the whole Bible is Jesus' words. Every last word of the Bible is God speaking. When a gospel writer selected (inspired by the Holy Spirit) what bits of Jesus' life and ministry to record the events, descriptions and their structures and context are as important as the actual words the Lord Jesus said.

The Gospel is Key
The whole Bible is a revelation of Jesus. Everything in the Bible is either predictive, prefiguring, reflective or resultant from the death of Jesus Christ. The heart of God's revelation of himself to us is the gospel of Jesus. That revelation doesn't give special place to the specific words that Jesus said. And when we come to specific Christian teaching it must always be in view of the gospel. Teaching about prayer is not first driven by what Jesus said about it - but by prayer is view of the gospel of Jesus. So, the first lesson in prayer is that we are called to a relationship with Jesus that is made possible by Jesus' death.

Context is Key
This weekend I'm preaching on John 10. In this section Jesus says - "I and the Father are One". My Jesus' words in red Bible highlights this but not the context. On its own this statement could mean lots of things. Eg Jesus and the Father have the same vision or mindset. But in context we see the Jews reacting by attempting to stone him for blasphemy. They see that he just claimed to be God. But it's not actually a claim to be God when we just take Jesus words out of context. The question when we read John's gospel is not first "what did Jesus say?" but "what is the Holy Spirit revealing about Jesus/The Gospel through this book?".

The Whole Book is Jesus speaking
What does this mean? For a start it means that we need to read the Bible as if its all God speaking. So the genealogy in Matthew has something to tell us about Jesus. So does the genealogy in 1 Chronicles. Ruth testifies about Jesus as does Jonah. Revelation is Jesus, so is Genesis.

Let us reclaim the lost scriptures. Let us reclaim the de-emphasised scriptures by seeing that all scripture testifies about the gospel of the glory of God in the face of Christ. And let us drive the gospel into the heart of all Christian life - seeing that all Christian teaching must be in the context not of the words Jesus said, but in view of the big message of the good news about Jesus.

2 comments:

  1. I agree with your thesis concerning embracing all of scripture, but I htink you may be reaching a little when it comes t red letter bibles. My thoughts are here

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  2. Agreed John,
    My primary usage Bible at the moment is my TruGrip Jesus Words In Red ESV... it's not a disaster... And as you say, it does depend how you use it!


    Dave

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