Bear in mind that our Lord’s patience means salvation, just as our dear brother Paul also wrote you with the wisdom that God gave him. He writes the same way in all his letters, speaking in them of these matters. His letters contain some things that are hard to understand, which ignorant and unstable people distort, as they do the other Scriptures, to their own destruction.
Therefore, dear friends, since you have been forewarned, be on your guard so that you may not be carried away by the error of the lawless and fall from your secure position. But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be glory both now and forever! Amen.
2 Peter 3:15-18
There is no question that it is the Holy Spirit who helps anyone understand or get anything out of the reading of scripture. Along with that, it’s vitally important that we remember that the church has been given the Spirit to understand scripture, in regard to what is of primary importance, especially in the matter of the gospel and the salvation that accompanies, or comes from that.
It’s important eventually to read or listen to the Bible from cover to cover, taking it in as one whole Book, while at the same time acknowledging that there are many books within that, and chapters of what one might call the story of scripture. And there are the hard things, which seem off limits, and a very few which might be better off left for private reading, not read in keeping with the lexical plan which is incorporated in a good number of churches today. I actually think there’s probably some wisdom in that. While at the same time I think there’s wisdom in going through those hard places in an instructional, informal setting.
There are a few concerns I have which are far ranging. There is a book for children which I love to read to our granddaughter (and eventually to both of our granddaughters) which is wonderful in helping the very young get a view of the entire Bible. There was one reading though, in which I cringed, because certain details which could be misunderstood, and might not be worth bring up to little ears, were included, and while done so to communicate to children, the wording itself I would think may well have been different, to not contradict the scriptural text, but to say it in a way that when the time comes where they read the Bible for themselves, they’ll be hopefully prepared so as not to misunderstand what they’re reading.
Another concern I have might come from those who seem to use the Bible as a weapon against evil. They are always appealing to texts in a way which is always letting people know just how wrong they are. This is neither the spirit of the Bible, what we believe is God’s written word, nor is it the spirit of Christ himself. It is another spirit, perhaps simply human, but easily enough could well be of the world, the flesh and the devil, rather than of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. And such can twist scripture as if it is speaking to certain pet hot button issues of the day. We have to not only beware of such, but call them on the carpet, and tell them enough is enough. At the very least ask them the hard questions. The church should hold them accountable.
But there’s also the so called progressives, who I find quite frustrating. They will say many things I agree with strongly, things I think need to be said today. But it seems to me that they fail over and over again to look at the entire truth squarely in the face, and so they fall short of teaching the whole will or counsel of God. For some this seems particularly obvious. For others, it’s less so, because they teach much that is good. I am not thinking merely of one or two issues. I am thinking of how they approach scripture in their teaching, their hermeneutics or way of interpreting it, and whether or not that’s in line with good Bible reading and what the church has taught. Progressives too easily dismiss traditional understandings and love to beat up on the fundamentalists, in fact for some, it seems like it’s their preoccupation. For others, they may be working through some of the backlash of their experience in the group mentioned above, who seem to use scripture as a weapon.
Anyone can benefit from a reading of scripture, and the gospels of Mark and John might be great places to start for anyone who has never read scripture before. But we need a guide, even as did the devout Ethiopian eunuch of old (Acts 8:26-40). We need those who are well established and mature in their intake of “the meat of the word” to help those who are still on “the milk of the word.” As well as helping others come to the faith of the good news in and through our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.