I have wondered what the Apostle Paul had in mind when he wrote, “…our adequacy is from
God, who also made us adequate as servants of a new covenant, not of the letter but of the Spirit,
for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life” (2 Cor 3:5, 6).
Have American evangelicals become too “Bible-centric” – become servants of the letter rather
than of the Spirit? Years ago, I gave a Sunday evening sermon but failed to begin with the
traditional, “If you would please turn in your Bibles to…” The message, from 1 Cor 15:1-4,
pointed to the heart of the Gospel as being the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus – nothing
about culture warriors advocating for a specific political position or against modern science.
Because I had failed to open the Bible and read from the text but, instead, quoted and alluded to
the text, I was accused of expressing my own opinions and not a biblical message.
Stan Moody refers to this trend as “bibliolatry” crafted from a smorgasbord selection of passages
on OPS – “Other People’s Sins” instead of our own. John Kirkwood reminds me that most
Christians – especially those of the early church – did not even have the Bible. How is it that our
legal treatment of the Bible seems at times to shove the Christ of the Bible off to the margins?
What Happened to the “Word made flesh”?
The Bible abounds with the message of the redeeming person and work of Christ. Yet, it often
seems as though the emphasis from our pulpits is more on the written word than on Christ, the
“Word made flesh”. Jesus reminded the religious of His day that “You search the Scriptures
because you think that in them you have eternal life; it is these (Scriptures) that testify of me;
yet, you are unwilling to come to me so that you may have life.” (John 5:39, 40).
I thought about this recently while appropriately mucking our horse stalls, my family’s version
of the American Dream. We’re all legalists at heart, loving the certainty that comes from
following rules and honoring group norms. Thus, nails that stick up get pounded down; original
thinking is suspicious. Heaven help the brave soul pointing out that the emperor has no clothes!
We refer to those these days as “Nones” and “Dones” and devise schemes to lure them back.
The Futile Quest for Certainty:
When the Bible becomes an instruction manual in the quest for certainty, it stunts both faith and
maturity and serves as a conversation-stopper. In his Epistle to the Galatians, Paul defines the
Old Testament law as a schoolmaster leading us to Christ. Schoolchildren eventually become
adults who no longer need schoolmasters. Hopefully, we under the New Covenant have taught
our kids to live by the Spirit, rather than by the letter of the law.
As was the rich young ruler who came to Jesus seeking eternal life, we may be following the
rules, but subtly only be crediting ourselves for our own salvation. We find that we are unsure of
the path to eternal life, which ought to lead us back to the Spirit of the Word and away from the
letter of the self-imposed law. Walking by faith is by definition a journey in uncertainty, trusting
in God’s divine providence through the unseen person of the Lord Jesus Christ, King of kings
and Lord of lords, and by the Spirit who leads us to abundant life.