Using the Bible rightly

By Dave Henning / August 25, 2023

“Whenever we read the Bible . . . to feel righteous and wise in our own eyes, we are using the Bible to make ourselves into fools or worse. . . .  We are reading and using the Bible rightly only when it humbles us, critiques us, and encourages us with God’s love and grace despite our flaws.”- Timothy Keller

And he passed in front of Moses, proclaiming, “The LORD, the LORD, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness, maintaining love to thousands, and forgiving wickedness, rebellion, and sin.  Yet he does not leave the guilty unpunished.”- Exodus 34:6-7 (NIV)

Timothy Keller moves on in Chapter 8 of The Prodigal Prophet as he observes that Jonah’s great anger reveals that he wasn’t merely perplexed by a theological conundrum.  Rather, we see that Jonah’s problem resides at the deepest level of his heart.  So, when Jonah begins to berate God, he quotes God’s own word (Exodus 34:6-7) against Him.

However, Pastor Keller underscores, Jonah chooses to read the Bible selectively.  As a result, he ignores the part of Exodus 34:7 that speaks of God not leaving the guilty unpunished.  Hence, Jonah:

  • creates a simplistic picture of God; a God who loves everyone without judgment on evil.
  • uses the sacred text to justify his excessive indignation, anger, and bitterness.

Above all, Pastor Keller cautions, Jonah’s misuse of the Bible poses a great danger for religious people.  Even the most devout Christians.   Because it’s possible to use the Bible to justify yourself.

Writing in The Judgment of Jonah, Jacques Ellul exhorts:

“For what [the Bible] teaches us about ourselves, is all to the effect that we are not righteous, that we have no means of justifying ourselves, that we have . . . no right to condemn others and be in the right against them and that . . . only a gracious act of God . . . can save us.  That is what Scripture teaches us, and if we stick to this, reading the Bible is useful and healthy and brings forth fruit in us.”

Today’s question: What most helps you in using the Bible rightly?  Please share.

Tomorrow’s blog: “Reach heart bedrock – God’s grace”

About the author

Dave Henning

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