Christ Is How We Understand Scripture (Not The Other Way Around)

Christ Is How We Understand Scripture (Not The Other Way Around) March 14, 2019

Try to imagine someone trying to convince you that the menu at the restaurant was better than anything you could eat at that restaurant. Or that the treasure map you were holding was the same as the actual treasure it was pointing you to.

If you can imagine that, then you can understand the confusion that many Evangelical Christians have about the Bible. They try to convince you, and possibly even themselves, that the Bible will change your life, and the Bible will bring you comfort, and the Bible will guide your decisions, and the Bible is your absolute authority for everything – even though the Bible never says anything like that. In fact, not only does the Bible never claim any of these qualities for itself, the Bible DOES claim all of those things for Christ, and the Holy Spirit.

And that’s where we have a problem.

See, once you substitute the Bible for Christ, then you don’t really need Christ, or the Holy Spirit; all you need is the Bible.

As I was pondering this the other day, I realized something: Christ is how we understand Scripture, not the other way around.

That is: If you actually read the Bible, and follow what it teaches, then you’ll agree that the only way we can understand Scripture – according to the Bible – is to know Christ deeply and intimately. Only then can we understand the Scriptures, truly.

The Apostle Paul puts it this way:

“But their minds were hardened; for until this very day at the reading of the old covenant the same veil remains unlifted, because it is removed in Christ. But to this day whenever Moses is read, a veil lies over their heart; but whenever a person turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away.” (2 Cor. 3:14-16)

See? Whenever we read the Old Covenant scriptures, a veil covers our eyes, and our hearts. What is the only thing that removes this veil? Christ!

So, if we attempt to understand Christ using the Scriptures, we will remain blinded to the reality of Christ. First, we must know Christ – and this “knowing” is not merely information about Christ, it is an intimate knowledge of a personal Christ who we commune with, listen to, walk with, and relate to in our actual hearts and minds – and then and only then can we begin to come to understand the Scriptures because it is ONLY in Christ that the veil is removed and we can clearly see the Scriptures.

Our problem is that we have allowed our pastors and our Bible teachers [and our Seminaries] to convince us that understanding the Scriptures is the same as understanding [or “knowing”] Christ. I’ve actually heard people say that understanding or knowing Doctrine is the same as knowing Christ. This is not only false, it’s actually a very dangerous thing, because it leads people to stop short of actually becoming acquainted with Christ in any real way; once they understand some doctrinal truth, they are told (and believe) that they have come to know Christ – and this is not the case.

Jesus also warned us against this when he said:

“You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; it is these that testify about Me; and you are unwilling to come to Me so that you may have life.” (John 5:39-40)

So, if we search the Scriptures will we find life? Nope.

But…we wouldn’t know anything about Christ if we didn’t search the scriptures! Yes, but Jesus says that’s not how we know him.

What must we do? Jesus says we must be willing to come to him so that we may have life. That means, we must enter into an abiding connection with Christ [“abide in me, and I will abide in you”], if we hope to really know Christ as we need to in order to enjoy this life that is only available through him.

The branch doesn’t receive life from the vine by being told that there is a vine, or by learning  how vines operate. No, the only way a branch receives life from the vine is by being connected to the vine and drawing its own life out of that vine.

So, rather than merely study the mechanics of vines and branches, we must actually become connected [like a branch] to the vine [Christ, who is our life], and then we can not only receive true life, we can then also receive what Paul refers to the as the “mind of Christ” – this is when we are empowered to understand the Scriptures, because that veil is finally removed so we can see clearly.

Some people are very confused by all of this, because someone once told them that if truth like this is revealed in the Bible, then the Bible is our authority. Yet, Jesus [in the Bible] says that: “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.” (Matt. 28:18)

So, let’s try to keep it straight: The Bible never points us to the Bible. The Bible always points us to Christ.

“…these are the scriptures that testify about [Christ]..” but we must “come to [Christ] to have life [not the scriptures]…”

Getting this right is a huge step in our relationship with Christ. Getting it wrong is like eating the menu.

**

Keith Giles was formerly a licensed and ordained minister who walked away from organized church 11 years ago, to start a home fellowship that gave away 100% of the offering to the poor in the community. Today, He and his wife live in Meridian, Idaho, awaiting their next adventure.

His new book “Jesus Unbound: Liberating the Word of God from the Bible”, is available now on Amazon and features a Foreword by author Brian Zahnd.

He is also the author of the Amazon best-seller, “Jesus Untangled: Crucifying Our Politics To Pledge Allegiance To The Lamb” with a Foreword by Greg Boyd.

Keith also co-hosts the Heretic Happy Hour Podcast on iTunes and Podbean. 

BONUS: Want to unlock exclusive content including blog articles, short stories, music, podcasts, videos and more? Visit my Patreon page.

 

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What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment
  • Somehow, quite early on in church history, the church became centered on knowing ABOUT Jesus rather than KNOWING Jesus. To put it another way, the church became centered on an obsession with defining “orthodoxy:” right belief. The obsession lead to a search for doctrinal certainty and with the merger of state and Christianity after Nicaea, the church used the might of the state to enforce what it thought was correct doctrine. Soon after the church began persecuting and executing “heretics.” This obsession for certitude has carried over into modern times in the form of inerrancy of scripture. In a real sense, this doctrine in “Bible believing churches,” has supplanted the Lordship of Jesus Christ with a form of Bibliolatry, a worship of the creation (the Bible) instead of the creator. A good resource for how this has happened is of course, Pete Enns. Derek Flood comes to mind as well.
    The inerrantist has put himself in an impossible situation, defending what is indefensible. Obsessing over defense of the Bible as a book of “facts” rather than spiritual “truths,” diverts energy away from living as followers of Christ, and ends up dividing the body of Christ, and worse yet, denying others room at the table. The Bible becomes weaponized. The early followers of Jesus were known and admired, even among Pagan Rome, not for their doctrinal beliefs, but for their sacrificial love, their charity and love of enemies. Unless the Western Church regains that understanding, it will become increasingly irrelevant.

  • Sandra Urgo

    The Bible is a difficult book to understand and can be interpreted many ways. People tend to cherry pick what goes along with their beliefs. I have learned that what we call the Old Testament is important in that it is the cultural foundation for Jesus’s teachings. Rob Bell calls the Bible a moral continuum in that moral thought evolves over time. One issue that comes up often in the Old Testament is the demand for justice- to immigrants, widows and orphans, i.e. the most vulnerable in society. Jesus, who saw the goodness in all people, including the “unclean”-lepers, disabled, women, Samaritans, firmly believed and followed this ancient teaching, which had become obstructed by Jews more intent on ritual cleanliness. He then taught of love for ones enemies, a truly radical idea. He spoke to the powerful, which eventually led to his crucifixion. So it’s good to understand the context and background of Jesus as well as what came after his ministry. I am reading with the help of the New Interpreters Study Bible, a guide which helps to explain and navigate through a complicated set of books comprising our Bible.

  • It seems to work in a circle with each reinforcing the other. We can’t know anything about Christ without the Bible but we can’t fully understand the Bible without Christ and the Holy Spirit enlightening our minds. So the Bible comes first and we have to believe what we can understand about Christ at first. Only then can the Holy Spirit enlighten our minds so that we can understand more about what the Bible says about Christ. We shouldn’t completely rule out reason, though. Our gift of the ability to reason is part of God’s common grace, like rain and sunshine. We shouldn’t let the gift atrophy.

  • Kate Johnson

    Sadly the biblical inerrancy has become an idol in the church. Taking a blessing and making it a curse.

  • This makes sense to me. That aside, how does one view Jesus’ rebuke of the devil using scripture (Mathew 4:1-11) as well as 3 Tim 3:16-17 stating that “All scripture is God-breathed..”? These verses are often cited in Evangelical churches as the rationale for memorizing scripture and its role in the life of a Christian. Of course, the context for any NT reference to scripture would be to the OLD Testament. Is the intent here by Mr. Giles to make OT and NT subordinate to Jesus, as a means to an end (i.e. getting to know Jesus) ?