Baptism: The Who, What, When, Where and Why, Why, Why

I’m going to let you in on a personal battle I’ve been having since my children were born:

To baptize or not to baptize?

See, Andrew and I are not the kind of people to do something religiously just because it “seems right”. We have to understand the ins and outs, the whys, why nots, who said it, why did they say it, who did they say it to, what’s the point, etc. In short, we need to understand the when, where, why, why, why and how of everything.

Sometimes I get pretty annoyed because this need for understanding makes decisions much more difficult. If I’m having this inner struggle over baptizing my children, the easy answer would be just to do it and not have to worry about it anymore, right? By not doing it, I still have to wonder if I “should be” doing it.

This is an excerpt of an email I recently sent to Quest’s founding pastor, Mike Hartzheim:

I’m still hung up on baptism. I think baptism is just a “nice thing” people do, symbolic of parents committing their children to Christ, something society expects of “good Christians”. Andrew and I are raising Livy and Ryan as the children of God they have been since birth– without the process of baptism having occurred. They already are God’s children, born into God’s family, just like everyone else. We’ll raise them to see the beauty, worth and responsibility in that, hopefully not turning away from their roles as children of God when they get older. So, I still don’t understand the point of baptism. Do you think it’s necessary?  (necessary for what… to “enter Heaven”? To be God’s child? To have a relationship with God?)

This is the great thing about Mike and Quest in general. When founded, Quest wrote core values and one of them reads: Following Jesus is a growing experience.  Mike’s first paragraph in response to my email questioning one of the basics of Christianity was, “Lots of good questions. I’m glad you continue to struggle with what it means to follow Jesus. It is a life-long process… we never stop growing and learning.”

Isn’t that great? I expected nothing different, but it still relieves me every time I remember that Quest is the perfect place for imperfect people. I mean, come on, I work for Quest, but I certainly don’t have it all figured out and never, ever will.  And that’s OK!  In fact, that’s what we are all about! If we don’t question, we can’t grow.  No one wants to be spoon fed anything because there’s just no value in that. Tell me what I have to believe and I’ll run for the hills, but allow me to do my own investigating and come to my own conclusions and I’m here to stay. Quest allows me to question Christianity and find my own answers after a lot thinking, praying, discussing and researching. I love it.

Mike went on to write:

The answer to the question, “is baptism necessary?” depends on what you mean both by “baptism” and “necessary”.

Is this a religion question (what are the “rules”?) or a relationship question (what does baptism have to do with loving God and/or neighbor?)? Is baptism simply symbolic (something we do to demonstrate to God our “commitment”) or is Goddoing” something through baptism?

How you answer these questions influences how you answer the question about whether or not baptism is “necessary” and “the point of baptism” (what “benefits” come with baptism). I can share with you how I answer these questions. The more important thing is, “How do you answer these questions?”

Hmmmm, how do I answer these questions? I do not do anything in my faith life based on “rules”, so I wouldn’t take a rules-based, religious approach to baptism. For me, Christianity boils down to relationships with God and others. I didn’t realize it before, but based on Mike’s response, I must have actually been asking what baptism has to do with loving God and our neighbor. As far as whether baptism is something we do to demonstrate to God our commitment to Him, or something God does through baptism, well, I wasn’t so sure yet.

After I had some time to digest this and read the scripture passages he referenced in the email, Mike followed up with a second email.

Micah,

Thought I’d add some to what I said yesterday now that you (hopefully) have had a chance to read and reflect on those Scripture passages I mentioned in the earlier email.

Do I believe baptism is “necessary.” Throughout history, the Church has answered that question with a resounding  “Yes.” Some Christians see it as a “requirement” (you must make a public profession– something we do for God) and others see it as a “sacrament” (something God does for us).  I see it from the sacramental approach.

Is baptism necessary? Yes, but not because we have to (it somehow “saves” us) but because we want to because God gives us something tangible to cling to and recall God’s promise in Jesus. The focus is on what God is doing… it is not a one-time event (although we physically baptize only once), it’s an on-going, daily reminder of God’s presence, promises and power… a daily dying to self and living for Christ.

In its religious sense, baptism means “to identify” or “to be made one with”. It refers to the act of identifying one thing with another thing in such a way that its nature or character is changed, or it represents the idea that a real change has already taken place.

As a reference to identification, “baptize” means to place a person (or thing) into a new environment, or into union with some one or something else, so as to alter his (its) condition or relationship to the previous environment.

Having said all this, does that make what you and Andrew are doing as you raise your children wrong? Not at all. You (and your whole family) are God’s children. Someday you (or they) may want to be baptized. If and when that day comes, I will be glad to assist in any way I can.

Hope this helps. Let me know if you have any other questions.

Ah, just want I wanted, right? Mike’s beliefs and opinions backed up by scriptural and scholarly evidence, yet opened-ended enough for me to formulate my own beliefs and opinions.

Just what I wanted and just what I didn’t want. See what I mean? It’s difficult to not just accept what educated people tell you as personal truth. I have been mulling over this information for a few weeks now and came to a conclusion (at least for now) when sweet baby Aidan was baptized last Sunday.

In my own words, baptism is a spiritual event that allows us to look back and gain strength and courage from the act of being physically identified as God’s child. Through baptism, we were born into new life. Mike later told me, “The baptism water is just plain water, but when we apply it with God’s promises, it becomes a life-giving event.” Jesus became all that we are so that we may become all that He is.  He became our sin so that we may become his righteousness. Though we only physically baptize once, it is actually a daily process. Baptism is a daily dying to self and living for Christ.

Are we all God’s children already? Yes.

Is baptism a necessary part of the Christian life for rules-based reasons? No.

Can we have a relationship with God without being baptized? Yes.

Is God with us through difficult times without being baptized? Yes.

Does baptism provide us with a tangible event to look back on and cling to when we need the reassurance that we are God’s child, identified by Him and called to live a life filled with His power, presence and promise? YES!

And so, sweet Aidan, I loved being a part of your baptism. You have been physically and spiritually identified as a child of God, born into a life full of the promise of Christ. Look back on this day and know with certainty that God is in you and with you, promising great things for you forever. We love you!

(These are only my personal thoughts, of course. I’d love to read your thoughts on baptism. Please leave a comment explaining what it means to you.)

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Get Up and Walk!

Do you know the story of the healing at the pool? You probably know it better by the description of Jesus healing on the Sabbath. I’m going to follow Andrew’s lead from Sunday and take a different approach. Read the short passage below, I’ll meet you there at the end.

John 5:1-15

The Healing at the Pool

1 Some time later, Jesus went up to Jerusalem for one of the Jewish festivals. 2 Now there is in Jerusalem near the Sheep Gate a pool, which in Aramaic is called Bethesda and which is surrounded by five covered colonnades. 3 Here a great number of disabled people used to lie—the blind, the lame, the paralyzed. 5 One who was there had been an invalid for thirty-eight years. 6 When Jesus saw him lying there and learned that he had been in this condition for a long time, he asked him, “Do you want to get well?” 7 “Sir,” the invalid replied, “I have no one to help me into the pool when the water is stirred. While I am trying to get in, someone else goes down ahead of me.”

8 Then Jesus said to him, “Get up! Pick up your mat and walk.” 9 At once the man was cured; he picked up his mat and walked.

The day on which this took place was a Sabbath, 10 and so the Jewish leaders said to the man who had been healed, “It is the Sabbath; the law forbids you to carry your mat.”

11 But he replied, “The man who made me well said to me, ‘Pick up your mat and walk.’ ”

12 So they asked him, “Who is this fellow who told you to pick it up and walk?”

13 The man who was healed had no idea who it was, for Jesus had slipped away into the crowd that was there.

14 Later Jesus found him at the temple and said to him, “See, you are well again. Stop sinning or something worse may happen to you.” 15 The man went away and told the Jewish leaders that it was Jesus who had made him well.

Oh good, I’m glad you’re here. Sometimes scripture reading tends to scare us away a bit, but you know, if you dig into it, it’s fascinating. This reminds me of a post I wrote a while back, read it here if you like, it’s called, “The Bible Gets You Going, Right?”

Having read the passage above, does any part in particular stand out to you?  Sure, Jesus healed on the Sabbath and had a point to make about that, but what about the first part, the part I think often gets overlooked?

6 When Jesus saw him lying there and learned that he had been in this condition for a long time, he asked him, “Do you want to get well?” 7 “Sir,” the invalid replied, “I have no one to help me into the pool when the water is stirred. While I am trying to get in, someone else goes down ahead of me.”

8 Then Jesus said to him, “Get up! Pick up your mat and walk.” 9 At once the man was cured; he picked up his mat and walked.

 

“Get up! Pick up your mat and walk.”

How often do we wallow in our own self-pity, thinking things are never meant to work out for us. Somebody hurt me, somebody forgot about me, things didn’t go my way, I’ll never accomplish anything again. Do you ever find yourself in the pit of negativity?  I know I do. I often have big plans, great motivation, but then one little thing happens that blows it all away. I suddenly feel doomed and only see the past instead of seeing the next thing.

Andrew has a saying that he learned from his prior coach, current boss that always encourages Livy and her HappyFeet soccer team to pick up the pieces after a mishap. “Next thing! Next thing!” he yells. “Next thing, make it a positive and productive thing!”

Whatever just happened, happened. It is what it is, good or bad. What are you going to do about it? How are you going to respond? Where are you going to go next?

Get up! Pick up your mat and walk. 

Last Sunday’s Intended Message

If you were at Quest last Sunday, you saw Corey’s perfect humanness revealed when he discovered he emailed himself the wrong notes for the sermon. Mistakes like this happen to the best of us and Corey rebounded with grace and delivered a great off-the-cuff, God-led message instead of what he had planned.  He did want the original notes shared with you, however, so below are the notes that he meant to email to himself for last Sunday’s message!

Who is Jesus?

Is Jesus fully man?

Is Jesus fully God?

Why did Jesus come to us through the Immaculate Conception?

As Christians, the virgin birth is key to our understanding of who Jesus is. Christ is the center of our religion. But I’m amazed at how few professing Christians know anything about who Jesus is. The Bible teaches that Jesus is both fully God and fully man. The virgin birth of Jesus is the means by which the full deity and full humanity of Jesus are wedded together in one person.

Scripture Reading

Luke 1:26-38

There are a couple of objections that are commonly raised by those who reject the virgin birth of Jesus. First, they say that the Hebrew word usually translated “virgin” in Isaiah 7:14 actually only means a young, unmarried woman. This word, they believe, was then mistranslated with the Greek word for “virgin” in the LXX which was followed by the New Testament authors. In other words, the concept of the virgin birth is a mistake.

The problem with this objection is that although the Hebrew word translated as “virgin” in Isaiah 7:14 can mean “a young, unmarried and eligible woman”, the only kind of “young, unmarried and eligible women” who were in that context were virgins. Even if you did translate it that way, it still would refer to the same thing.

The other problem is that the New Testament is explicit that the birth of Jesus was through a miraculous conception. The argument is based upon more than the translation of that word. We have testimony from the angel Gabriel and Mary herself that she was a virgin.

Another objection also raised is that the virgin birth is only mentioned explicitly in two places in the New Testament (Matthew and Luke). It is true that Matthew and Luke both announce the virgin birth most clearly. But Mark doesn’t contradict it, only beginning with the ministry of John the Baptist and baptism of Jesus. John certainly implies it with his statement that the Word was eternally co-existent with the Father and “became flesh and dwelt among us.” (John 1:1-3, 14).

The Apostle Paul said in Galatians 4:4, “But when the fullness of the time had come, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman.” Which shows that God has kept His promise to send a deliverer who was called in Genesis 3:15 “the seed of a woman”.

What is the significance of Jesus being both fully God and fully man?

Does it really matter?

The virgin birth of Jesus Christ was the means by which He acquired a human nature without affecting His sinless deity. Jesus is perfect God and perfect man, 100 percent God and 100 percent man. Some emphasize the humanity of Christ to the exclusion of His deity. But the Scriptures teach both. The virgin birth is essential because it is the means by which Jesus maintains His divine nature, while assuming a human one. Both Jesus’ humanity and deity are important to our salvation.

  1. Jesus’ Humanity

a. Man needed a representative.

Romans 5:18-19 Consequently, just as the result of one trespass was condemnation for all men, so also the result of one act of righteousness was justification that brings life for all men.  For through the obedience of the one man the many will be made righteous.

b. Man needed a substitute sacrifice.

Hebrews 2:16-17 Fro surely it is not angels he helps, but Abraham’s descendants.  For this reason he had to be made like his brothers in every way, in order that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in service to God, and that he might make atonement for the sins of the people.

c. Man needed a mediator between him and God.

1 Timothy 2:5-6 For there is one God and one mediator between God and man, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all men, the testimony given in its proper time.

2. Jesus’ Deity

Only God could achieve our salvation. Because our sins are against an infinitely holy God, they are infinitely heinous and worthy of infinite punishment. The only way a finite human being can pay for his/her sins is by spending infinity (eternity) separated from God. Because Christ is infinite God, He was able to bear the infinite (eternal) punishment for all the ones given to Him by the Father in a finite amount of time (as He hung on the cross). Only God could achieve our salvation!

It would not have been right for the restoration of human nature to be left undone, and . . . it could not have been done unless man paid what was owing to God for sin. But the debt was so great that, while man alone owed it, only God could pay it, so that the same person must be both man and God. Thus it was necessary for God to take manhood into the unity of his Person, so that he who in his own nature ought to pay and could not should be in a person who could . . . The life of this man was so sublime, so precious, that it can suffice to pay what is owing for the sins of the whole world, and infinitely more.

The Sinlessness of Christ
The virgin birth is also essential because it ensures the sinlessness of Christ. The virgin birth is the means by which Jesus is protected in His human birth from the corruption of Adam’s sin. Jesus was fully human, yet without sin. As Romans 8:3 states, God sent His Son in “the likeness of sinful flesh”. It was real human flesh, but not sinful! Without the sinlessness of Jesus, He could not have paid for our sins for He would have had to pay for His own. In order to be our substitute He had to be completely sinless Himself. As Peter writes in 1 Peter 1:18-19,

For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver and gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your forefathers, but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect.  He was chosen before creation of the world, but was revealed in these last times for your sake.

As Dr. Albert Mohler has written:

Christians must face the fact that a denial of the virgin birth is a denial of Jesus as the Christ. The Savior who died for our sins was none other than the baby who was conceived of the Holy Spirit, and born of a virgin. The virgin birth does not stand alone as a biblical doctrine, it is an irreducible part of the biblical revelation about the person and work of Jesus Christ. With it, the Gospel stands or falls.

I don’t believe that someone has to fully understand the virgin birth in order to be saved. The story of Jesus is capped by two miraculous events: the virgin conception of Jesus by the Holy Spirit and the glorious resurrection. The story of Jesus is a supernatural story that must be believed on the authority of the Word of God. The doctrine of the virgin birth is biblical! It is not optional. It is essential to our salvation! There is no other means for our salvation that the one which God has devised.

Acts 4:12 Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved.

Real.

Did you join us yesterday for our first service with the new format? Bear with us while we work out the kinks, but I think you’ll agree that our future is so very promising. God has been doing big things with Quest all along and He’s sure not stopping now! With Corey being our new lead pastor, a few things have changed, but our mission is still (and always will be) the same: to be the hands and feet of Jesus to the world. That’s where the “2819” comes from, you know, Matthew 28:19. We’re sharing the love of Christ with all people everywhere.

To me, the most meaningful change in Quest’s service yesterday was at the beginning. Corey took a seat with all of us in the pews and asked a few people how their week was. He truly wanted to know, we all did, how everyone’s week was. I found this to be really powerful– usually when someone asks us how we are doing, we say something along the lines of “pretty good”, right? That’s what’s socially acceptable. When we ask someone how they’re doing, we expect them to respond with something quite traditional and safe. We aren’t really looking for a long-winded summary of their day-to-day, we’re just performing our social duty of asking “how are you?” to greet someone.

The following has always been the case with Quest, but it was particularly highlighted yesterday. See, when you walk in to Quest, you are walking into your family room. You are walking into a building that houses a group of people who love you. Really! Corey asked a few people how their weeks were and got honest and raw responses in return:

“It sucked! I need a lot of patience with all the changes going on.”

“I’m looking for a new job where I’m respected and appreciated.”

“My week was really great. I’m so fulfilled and looking forward to spending Christmas with my newborn this year.”

“Planes, trains and automobiles. I’m traveling a lot and it’s getting tough on me and my family.”

“My brother is being admitted to Mayo Clinic for mysterious lung issues and my mom has lymphoma. My Dad’s having a hard time dealing with it all.”

This is real life, guys. We have real stuff going on and many of us (myself included) weren’t even aware of most of it. That is not who we are! If we are anything at Quest, we are real. REAL. Real with each other, real with God, real with the world.

I’m sure you are aware of the tragic death of meteorologist Don Harman last week. My goodness, my heart breaks at such an awful loss. I’ve prayed for the family and the news team this week, but the reality of his death didn’t fully hit me until Corey said the following yesterday:

“Don Harman was a hilarious guy. Every morning, he had everyone laughing. He seemed so jolly, yet he was dying inside.  He took his own life on Tuesday and how many people saw that coming?”

The Fox 4 news team reported that they and Don’s family endlessly tried to help him. I’m not at all down-playing their involvement in his life, I have no idea what went on behind the scenes. I’m using his tragedy to say that we will not be a church that ignores the suffering of one another. We will not step foot in this building and pretend we’re ok when we’re not. If one of us is hurting, the rest of us will know and support that person.

There will be no brushing things under the rug or painting on fake smiles for Jesus. No, if you step foot inside Quest, you are stepping foot into your living room and your family is ready to face life with you.

We’re on a mission to be the hands and feet of Christ to the world and we start with one another. Jesus was compassionate and so are we.

We do not care where you come from, what your opinions are or where you are on your walk with Jesus.

We do care about you.

Immensely.

We Have Work To Do, Guys

Thankfulness.

I’m sure you’ve thought about what you’re thankful for this past week, having just celebrated Thanksgiving. Maybe it was just for a passing second or maybe you pondered your blessings for a while.

Corey talked a bit on Sunday about all that we have to be thankful for. Of course the list is long and wonderful to think about, but our responsibility goes beyond just counting our blessings.

I’ve been talking about my kids quite a bit on here lately and I think it’s because my oldest is about to turn 4. She’s experiencing aspects of the world without me and, to be honest, it kinda freaks me out! She’s learning things that I haven’t taught her. For instance, yesterday she came home from preschool, climbed in her chair for lunch and promptly said, “Mom, corn is stupid.”

Caught off guard, I told her we don’t say “stupid” and she replied, ever-so-innocently, “But, Mrs H said we don’t say ‘stupid’ in the classroom and I’m at home now!”

Ah, kids are so literal. Sometimes it’s a blessing to see things black and white like that, but sometimes we need to dig a bit further. As parents, not only do we teach and lead our kids, we also have to get on their level and figure out what they’re getting from the world. What lessons have we explained very well (in our own opinions) that our kids have understood completely incorrectly? Like with Livy, she thought it was perfectly fine to say “stupid” anywhere except the classroom. So black and white. Thankfully this small error was realized quickly, but I sometimes panic wondering what other things she has assumed so simply!

I’ve written a letter to my children with my thoughts on what I hope will be their upbringing in a nutshell and I thought I’d share it with you here.

Dear Livy and Ryan,

You, my sweet children, are beautiful gifts from God. You are beautiful in every sense of the word, but mostly you have the most innocent and open hearts I have ever seen.

Ryan, being barely one, we haven’t seen a lot of your personality traits yet, but do know you love life. You greet every new experience with eager anticipation. Your excitement for life is contagious and I hope you keep that forever. You have taught me what it means to truly “forgive and forget” as you instantly pick yourself up from a let-down and carry on with life, happy as ever. There’s serious truth in that ability to forgive, Ryan. You know, when you forgive someone, you are freeing yourself from the negative feelings tying you down. You free yourself to live and be a shining example of love to the world. Keep that up, buddy. Keep inspiring me to do the same.

Livy girl, you are a wonder to behold. Being that you are getting older, your true characteristics are showing and let me just say that you take my breath away. Really. You are so compassionate, so honest, so kind. I want to be like you, Liv. You are able to find wonder in the tiniest of moments. You find joy in the simplest activities and you find ways to show love at the most necessary times. I have learned so much from you, but you have particularly taught me the art of being content with being together.

Thank you, my loves, for being so absolutely wonderful.

I want you to know how thankful I am for you. Do you know what that means? That means I recognize what a blessing you are to my life. I don’t know where I’d be without you! But, thankfulness goes beyond just thinking about blessings. You see, thankfulness comes with a call to action.

I’m thankful for all that we have and know other people have far less blessings than we do. That means we have work to do, guys. We are blessed to be a blessing. If there’s one lesson in your entire childhood that I want you to remember, it’s that you’re blessed to be a blessing.

You, Livy and Ryan, have so much to be thankful for, so many reasons you are blessed. Your job is to pass on those blessings. Help others, love others, smile at strangers, donate to causes, support what you believe in. I know you will do all of that and more.

Being blessed is a big responsibility. Think about what you’re thankful for every day and figure out what you are gonna do with those blessings.

I’m so thankful you’ve given me the opportunity to realize what being thankful truly means. It’s more than counting my blessings, it’s pouring my blessings out for others.

I’ll love you always and forever.

Mom

 

Where Did It Come From?

We’re halfway through our series “Making Sense of Scripture” and from last week, if your brain didn’t melt trying to follow the post, you remember that the Bible, as the Word of God, points us to Jesus.

We discussed the Bible being like the manger, as Martin Luther said, having a few crooked nails and a few warped boards, but holding the perfect Christ.

I love this analogy. It gives me so much hope!  I mean, think about it– despite being swaddled in a manger, smelly, dusty, cold, and wobbly, Christ still did his thing.

and by “thing” I mean, you know, everything.

Do you see where my hope comes from in this? Isn’t it possible that God can still do his thing despite the vessels He now has to work with?  (ahem, us.)

Despite our flaws, our mistakes, our human-ness, God will still do his thing.  He will use us to accomplish his will.

Are you up for that?

Let’s come back to that question in a minute and get back to the first question I asked, where did the Bible come from?

The answer is two-fold. On one hand, the Bible is God’s book, through which God accomplishes divine purposes. This book points us to Jesus, the Lord and Savior of all creation. From Genesis to Revelation, the Bible points us to Jesus.

On the other hand, the Bible is a very human book, written by inspired witnesses in a particular time, to a particular people, and for a particular purpose. The Bible is the gathered writings of ordinary people just like you and me who were so gripped by their experience of God that they had to share it with others.

In its human sense, the Bible is the faithful confession of ordinary people of their extraordinary experience of God.

In its divine sense, God used these confessions of faith to draw people to Him.

Divine and human, both.

That’s what the Bible is. That’s where the Bible comes from. God worked through humans, despite our flaws, to create a book that leads us to Him.

and you know what? He’s still doing it. He’s still working through humans to lead us to Him.

Back to that second question I asked earlier, are you up for that?

I’ve mentioned Bill Hybels’ book Just Walk Across the Room before. Despite how much it intrigues me, I don’t find time to read it often. My latest reading included something that I have to share, related to being open to God using us for His will.

Hybel writes,

I realize some of you believe that unless the plan of salvation gets explained, it’s been an unsuccessful conversation, spiritually speaking. And some of you probably put yourselves through an exhaustive self-deprecation routine unless you extend an invitation to your church each time God opens an evangelistic door. Still others might say that everything is A-OK on your evangelistic value meter as long as you give your personal testimony- all four volumes of it- at every opportunity.

This begs the question, who are we working for here? When sharing the love of Christ with others, are we doing it for our own personal satisfaction or are we doing it for God?

If you are sharing your testimony, inviting people to church and explaining the plan of salvation because you feel it tips the scale more toward the right, adding more weight on the “good deeds” end of the spectrum, you’ve got the wrong idea.

No matter how much we do, we will never be good enough for God. But, He didn’t leave us without hope! Jesus died and so paid for every bad deed we will ever do. We’ll spend eternity with Him because he loves us.

Therefore, we don’t need to play the obligatory “God card” in awkward situations. We do not neet to force Jesus down anybody’s throat. Leading others to Christ isn’t up to us. It’s not our gig! See, when we allow God to work through us to bring others to Him, we are allowing His spirit to guide us. We wait, we listen, and if He doesn’t tell us to act, we don’t. If he opens the door of opportunity for us, we go! (Oh, and it’s usually not easy, but more on that soon.)

And so, what I’m saying is the Bible is still very much alive today. God is divinely using our human actions to bring glory to His name. Pray, listen, respond. The relationships you build with people are the biggest tool in pointing them to faith.

Oh dear. We’re getting deep!

How is the Bible the Word of God?

Wham. I asked it. Deep question, eh?

In chapter 3 of Making Sense of Scripture, Lose asks a few questions that nicely sum up my thoughts on the “Word of God” phrase:

A lot of people call the Bible “the Word of God” and I have trouble making sense of that. Does it mean to call the Bible the Word of God? Are we saying it’s different from every other book? That it kind of fell from heaven or has special powers? That it’s holy? We do call it “the Holy Bible,” after all.

What words come to mind when you hear “Word of God?”  Anything from the list below?

  • A big, black leather-bound Bible
  • A preacher striding the stage with the Bible in one hand and pointing with the other hand
  • Truth
  • Guidance
  • The Ten Commandments
  • Jesus
  • Peanut butter and jelly

(Just making sure you’re still paying attention.)

Those words are all descriptions that come to my mind when thinking about the Word of God and a little research proves at least a couple of those are correct, in theological terms.

Hang with me.

First, I think we’ll all agree that the Word of God is the Bible. The Bible tells the story of God’s love for the world throughout history and so is God’s written Word.

Despite there being three definitions representing the Word of God, this one of the Bible seems to be the only meaning we typically think of. Christians have long claimed the Bible as the Word of God because the whole thing is a story about God. We believe the Bible is the best place to get to know God.

This is true, but it’s important to remember that the Bible is not the only way to think about the Word of God. See, the Bible is important not simply because of what it is, but because of what it does, which is to testify to God and to God’s work in Jesus.  This ties in with the last post on “Is the Bible True?” detailing that it’s important not to get hung up on analyzing the Bible for facts, but instead to read it for what God is telling us through it.

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Second and most importantly, Jesus is the Word of God. The very first verse of John says, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” And then a little later, it says, “And the Word became flesh and lived among us.” (Think Christmas. God took on our human flesh in Jesus, which we celebrate as Christmas.)

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Thirdly, the gospel is the Word of God. The gospel is the good news of what God has done for us and all the world in and through Jesus.

Let’s sum this up: The Bible is a medium that holds the gospel, the gospel tells the story of Jesus, and Jesus is God made flesh. So, when we use the term “Word of God,” we are ultimately talking about Jesus or God.

Lose uses a great flow chart to represent this relationship:

The Bible shouldn’t be worshiped or held holy for its own sake. The Bible is important because of what it contains, which is the gospel. The gospel is the story of Jesus, told by various people. It’s important to remember that one person’s eye-witness account of the very same event can differ from another’s. Therefore, we use the gospel, various accounts of the life and death of Jesus, to point us to the real deal: Jesus.

The Bible and the gospel are mediums through which we get to know God.

Are you still with me? The main point of this post is the previous sentence. Read it again!

Now, go drink some coffee, think about this, and then come back and ask your questions.