Friday, February 12, 2010

The Word in the word in the word

It is a good thing for Christians to spend much time in Scripture, through sermons and their own reading. There is huge value in getting Biblical truth into our heads, and our heads into Biblical truth. It changes the way we look at the world, helps us to get God's perspective on things. But it can be an entirely unprofitable enterprise when it comes to eternal life. After all, the Jews of Jesus' day spent their time in Bible study, but it didn't help them much. "You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about me, yet you refuse to come to me that you may have life" (John 5:39-40). If we want eternal life, we need to read the Scriptures through the lens of the gospel of Christ. We need to catch the word within the word.

But even that can be unprofitable. Anyone who has spent much time around Christians will know that knowledge of the gospel message very easily turns into argument about the gospel message. What exactly is its extent? How do the details work? What is the centre, if there is one?

I would suggest that, just as Scripture only profits us if we read it for the sake of the gospel, the gospel only profits us if we love it for the sake of the Person, Jesus Christ, who stands at the heart of it. If we love the doctrines of the gospel for their own sake - because of their ideological value, say, or their philosophical beauty - we are in danger of missing Christ. We need to look for, and desire, the Word within the word within the word.

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