By Johnnie C. Godwin
Contributing columnist, B&R
Marcion was a second-century heretic who rejected the Old Testament and cut the New Testament to suit himself. He would have strongly disagreed with my belief that all Christians need to know the Bible as we have it and to know its Author (see II Timothy 2:15; 3:15-17; John 5:36-40; Hebrews 5:19; 12:2, KJV). Despite the uniqueness of the Bible as the greatest of all books, we pastors and Christians may be guilty of a type of Marcionism.
Where do you go to know the Bible and its Author? Reading all the Bible prayerfully and for yourself is the best way to get to know the Bible and its Author. When the apostle Paul preached in Berea, eager listeners examined the Scriptures to see if Paul’s preaching matched the Scriptures. Then many of the men and women became believers (see Acts 17:10-12). Each of us is responsible for knowing the Scriptures for ourselves.
Admittedly, pastors and teachers may be able to teach us much more of the Bible than we can discover for ourselves. But this is where the Marcionite type of problem may occur.
My own primary calling has been in Christian publishing, but I have preached more than 3,000 sermons.
To prepare for this article, I studied my own preaching records over the years. And, sadly, I have to confess that I failed to preach from a number of Old Testament books — and even two or three New Testament books.
Ask your pastor what book or books in the Bible he has never preached from before. He may be surprised when he checks his records to answer your question. You too may be guilty of leaving out a book. For example, what do you know about the Book of Habakkuk?
I discovered a valuable tool for total Bible-overview knowledge: namely, Know Your Bible (Expanded edition by Paul Kent, copyright 2013, by Barbour Pub. Inc.). In all its editions, the little book has sold over two million copies. I recommend it!
How to plan biblical preaching or teaching? As a former seminary student and pastor, I also had a regular job and was pressed to prepare sermons and deliver them once or more per week.
We fellow students jokingly referred to the late William Barclay as “a preacher’s Saturday night friend.” His devotional commentaries were so rich and good that we knew we could count on him even if we had failed to prepare.
Disciplined and mature pastors choose some plan to help their congregation know the Bible and meet its Author. One approach is to pray and study the life needs of the people and know that the Bible has a right truth and text to meet every need. So they choose a life’s needs approach for their sermons. Still others, choose a book of the Bible to study deeply and intensely to preach from one book of the Bible at a time. Every pastor is charged to feed the flock (see John 21:15-18).
Still, no one pastor can preach or teach everything a person needs to know about the Bible and its Author. Besides having a pastor or Sunday School teacher, each individual’s stewardship responsibility is to study the Bible himself.
Not all Bible books are equal. All the Bible is God-breathed and worthy of study. But even if you memorized every word of the Bible, that would not be enough.
The Pharisees and religious leaders of Jesus’ day knew more Scripture than anyone else. Yet, some of them had seemingly come to worship the Bible itself. Jesus chided, “You don’t have His word residing in you, because you don’t believe the one He sent. You pore over the Scriptures because you think you have eternal life in them, and yet they testify about me. But you are not willing to come to me so that you may have life” (John 5:38-40, CSB).
Some Bible books have spoken to me more richly than others.
As a boy, I grew up in Midland, Texas. The region was so bare of trees that a nearby town was named No Trees, Texas. When we moved to Tennessee, we needed firewood and bought 56 acres of timberland. I would never cut a good, living tree; but many of the trees lived their time and fell or got diseased. It was those trees we cut into logs, split with a maul, and brought home to burn.
A woman who owned 10 times as much wooded acreage as I did asked me if I ever got my land logged. I cringed with the thought of even selective cutting of good trees. She explained that selective logging was necessary every so many years, or trees would get diseased or grow too close together and need thinning out for others to grow taller and larger.
I found a good logger. He told me the trees had different values. He would split 50-50 with me on hardwoods; but 75 for me and 25 for him on veneers. Hardwood had more value and brought more money. But veneers brought most of all. They were unblemished, high quality logs: red oak, black cherry, black walnut, poplar, ash, etc. So I learned about kinds and generations of trees.
Conclusion. In a similar way, we can study the Bible and know the Author until we individuals can become more valuable to God. We can become veneers.
Each generation has to discover and come to know the Bible for itself. And when the time is just right, the “Author” will remove the old trees and take them to the place He’s been preparing for them. And that will continue until time is no more. God has a purpose for all His creation, and we serve Him best when we fit the plan He has for us.
He plans for us to know all the Bible and experience the Author for ourselves. It is then that we can best serve Him best! Study all the Bible and grow in coming to know the Author! B&R — Copyright 2019 by Johnnie C Godwin. Write the author: firstname.lastname@example.org