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Archive for January 21st, 2020

The Bible and the Church

January 21st, 2020

Do everything without complaining or arguing, so that you may be blameless and pure, children of God without fault in a crooked and perverse generation, in which you shine as lights in the world as you hold forth the word of life, in order that I may boast on the day of Christ that I did not run or labor in vain. (Philippians 2:14-16 BSB)

The Bible is to have a central place in the life of the Christian and in the life of the local church. The Christian, having originally been found and saved by God through the word of God, finds in the word the truth of God and spiritual meat for the spiritual sustenance of his soul. The church finds the word to be the tool of God for their witness and for their spiritual development. By teaching, proclaiming, and believing the word of God the church finds unity, leadership, clarity, efficiency, purpose, truth, and life.

The word of life

These words are strong here and have a remarkable history behind them. Words by themselves, as we all know, are often empty and meaningless, the powerless promises of an egotist. Words can by themselves alone be deceptive, leading us to believe and act upon lies and ruses. But the words of Christ bring life, as His disciples testified, Christ has the “words of eternal life” (John 6:68), and, in fact, is that word of eternal life that shined into the darkness of the world in His incarnation (John 1:1-4), and He remains the “word of life” for those who believe in Him (1 John 1:1).

The life that Christ gives is not merely a better life, but a pure life that is eternal in its nature. The nature of this life is the continual growth in intimate knowledge of Christ, as He said: “And this is eternal life, to know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent” (John 17:3). All that we know of Jesus, apart from a few obscure outside historical references, is found in the Bible. To to know Christ, and thereby to know God and to have true spiritual life, requires us to know the Bible.

Holding forth the word of life

The words of the text above are also instructive of the church’s ministry and witness. In what we do we are not only to hold upon the word of God ourselves, but we are to hold it forth as our message,  testament, and ministry. The word of the original Greek is epecho, a combination of epi and echo, or “upon” and “hold.” It carries the meaning of “holding onto,” “paying attention to,” and “holding forth.” Ellicott’s Commentary is especially helpful here, seeing a connection between “holding forth” or “holding out” the word and the words in the preceding verse about the church “you shine like stars in the world”:

Holding forth the word of life.—This translation seems correct, and the reference is to the comparison above. There may, indeed, be (as has been supposed) a reference, involving a change of metaphor, to the holding forth of a torch, for guidance, or for transmission, as in the celebrated torch race of ancient times. But this supposed change of metaphor is unnecessary. The “luminaries” hold forth their light to men, and that light is the “word of life.”

So Ellicott’s Commentary sees a continuation between “shining like stars in the universe” and “holding out the word of life.” The word translated “universe” or “world” is kosmos in Greek and either word is a fair translation. The night sky shows the shining stars against the backdrop of the blackness of nothingness, and Christians shine like that in this world. The blackness of the world is the darkness of unbelief and confusion, the anger and hatred and selfishness of the world. And the light of the Christian is the word of light.

Why is the Christian different? He is different because he has the word of God and has trusted in the Christ of the word, and has received divine illumination in his soul. He holds forth the “word of God,” the “gospel of Jesus Christ,” or the “word of life,” as the hope of the world because it is his hope as well, and the clearest explanation for why he is different from others. As Heinrich Meyer saw it: “That those, who have a longing for life, may let it (the gospel of Christ) be the light which shall guide them to life.”

Hold on as we hold forth

The Bible is the book we hold on to as we hold it forth to others. The church should keep the Bible in the forefront of its life and not hide it under mountains of other programming. It is not something we should apologize for teaching, rather it is the best thing the church has for its own edification and for its message to the lost. Through teaching the Word, we present Christ who can save, and Christ who can give true life, and the beautiful teachings of the Holy Spirit’s work in our lives.

There is no conflict, or there should be none, in the teachings of the Word and the work of the Spirit. He is the Author of the book, and works in our lives through the Bible to lead us and teach us.

 

 

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