Let’s say you had a car: a beautifully functional, highly efficient, effective vehicle capable of transporting people from here to there. Let’s say you valued your car so much that you read books on how to properly care for it and maintain it and spent hours simply gazing at its wonder. This love affair grows so large that in the end you prefer to keep the car in the garage, where it can be free from dust, wear and tear and possible collisions on the road. You love your car more than the world itself, but you’ve forgotten its main purpose: to take you places.
I believe Christian preachers are having the same mission drift when it comes to the Bible. Every single week, preachers like me preach from the Bible, as they should. Every single week, evangelical preachers hold to a view that lifts up the Bible as inerrant and inspired, as I believe they should. So what’s the problem? Too many of us have confused the means with the end.
More and more I hear pastors and churches say phrases like “We’re here to preach the Bible,” or “Our church is centered on the Bible,” or “the goal of my preaching is to teach the Bible,” all phrases which seem laudable on the surface but make one critical mistake: the Bible is not the foundation of our faith. The Bible points to and is a witness to the foundation of our faith, but it in and of itself is not the foundation.
The foundation of our faith is a specific event in history, the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. The Bible is the historical record of those events, but the historical record is different than the event itself. In the same way, we all have a birth certificate that is a historical record of our birth, but our birth certificate is not us.
Is the Bible inerrant? I believe so and hold to that. Is the Bible inspired by God? I believe so and hold to that. But a book did not die on the cross for my sins, and a book did not rise from the dead for my eternal salvation. The Bible points to those events and testifies them, and that is its purpose. The Bible is the means, not the end.
When we begin to worship the Bible above all else, we take our eyes off of who the Bible is pointing us to: Jesus. Our goal in preaching shouldn’t be just to teach the Bible. It should be to introduce people to Jesus through the Bible. It shouldn’t be just to transfer information, but to strengthen a relationship between the hearers and Jesus.
The Bible is inspired. The Bible is inerrant. (Pick your own conservative theological catchphrase and insert here). But the Bible is the means, not the end. We’re not called to worship the Bible. We’re called to worship Jesus. And Jesus is not a book. Just as a car is meant to take you from point A to point B, so the Bible is meant to lead people into a relationship with Jesus. Don’t confuse the means with the end.
“You study the Scriptures diligently because you think that in them you have eternal life. These are the very Scriptures that testify about me, yet you refuse to come to me to have life” (~Jesus, John 5:39-40).