I believe every Christian has had an experience like I had a few days ago where a passage of the Bible I had read many times and even memorized suddenly took on a whole new level of meaning to me. If you are a regular reader of this site you will know that I have been pouring over the five solas of the Reformation, trying to understand what it was that triggered so great an explosion in the understanding of Christianity. I have started at the beginning with Sola Scriptura which affirms that the Bible alone is to be our infallible guide in matters of life and faith. It is the unerring, perfect, inspired Word of God. Of course as I studied this it was only a matter of time before I was led to one of the most clear Biblical expositions of this concept in Hebrews 4. It reads:
For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.
Now I have read that passage hundreds of times. I had to memorize it as a child in school and in catechism classes. I have always known that it shows that Scripture is authoritative and special – that it is God’s way of speaking to us. Yet as I read it again and really sought to understand what it means, I was suddenly overcome as I began to comprehend some of that verse’s depth.
What struck me deepest was the idea that God’s word is alive. It is living and active. As I read these words I literally had chills running down my back. I began to think about the Bible and how I perceive it and how I use it. Do I really believe it is alive? I often hear people citing the need for pastors to “make the Bible come alive” for them or looking forward to a movie account of a Bible passage because it will “give the passage new life.” But how can this be? The Bible is already living and it is already active! We do not need anyone to make the Bible seem more alive to us – we just need to believe and understand that it already is living.
The Bible is a living book and this is the basis for its power to transform lives and to penetrate a person as deeply as the division of his soul and spirit. The Bible can pierce me to the very core of my being. And certainly there have been times when the Bible has pierced me that deeply. Evidently it must have done so for me to become a believer in the first place. And once again, in this time I write about, the Bible pierced me with a deeper understanding of itself.
I thought about the Reformation and what triggered so great an event. The beginning of the Reformation is commonly acknowledged to be the time when Martin Luther nailed his ninety five theses to the door of the church in Wittenberg. I wonder if we shouldn’t go a bit further back to the time when Luther was in a monastery and desperately searching for a way of making himself right before God. He tried all that church had to offer – repentance, contrition, confession and flagellation. Nothing could convince him that he had a right standing with God. Finally a wise monk handed him a Bible, a rare book for that age, and told him to search in there for the answers. That Bible was the match that struck the fire of the Reformation. The living word, when placed in the hands of that man, pierced him to the division of his soul and spirit. The word flowed through him, convicting him of his sin and convincing him of the only way to a right standing before God. The living word brought him to life and actively flowed out into the whole world.
Now that we have the word so freely available to us, do we really appreciate it for what it is? Do we really believe that it has the power to transform lives and to pierce hearts?
I fear that I do not have a proper awe and respect for the Bible. But I do believe that I now have the beginning of an understanding of it that will allow me to see more clearly how incredible a gift the Bible is. I pray that God continues to impress upon me the marvels of His word and that this head-knowledge translates into my life, so I learn to live and breathe the living word.