Scripture, Not As It Seems To You, But As It Is For You
The following is an excerpt from An Uncompromising Gospel: Lutheranism’s First Identity Crisis and Lessons for Today written by Wade Johnston (1517 Publishing, 2016).
Scripture says things, and it says them as God said them in Genesis 1, with a creative, formative purpose and power. Scripture is not ours to play with; no, we are Scripture’s. Words mean things. The Word means things. He came, a real person, flesh and blood, was crucified, died, and was buried. Jesus is not an idea. He is not what we conceive of Him. He was conceived and born. He is, and so is His Word. His Word is bond. His promises cannot be thwarted, nuanced, or undone. We are captive to them. They take hold of us, not we them. And only disaster could and would result if it were not so. Through the Scriptures God makes chosen those He chose before the creation of the world. He takes the reins. He calms the sea. He does to us just what His Word says. Jesus comes to us as real as on Christmas, wrapped in the pages of our Bible and, especially, in the words of our preacher.
We are tempted in our day to speak of our interpretations of things. In this, though, communication becomes both insincere and meaningless. Scripture is not the great American novel. We do not assign meaning to it. It has meaning. What matters is not what it means to us, but what it means for us. Scripture alone is the foundation and source of the Church’s teaching and Scripture alone accomplishes what we cannot, for the Word acts through His Word. God might be hidden apart from His revelation, but in His revelation He is not hidden at all. He is there. The Scriptures do not need clarity, they are clear in and of themselves. Its words are not too simple to convey God’s message. Rather, God’s message is plain—and most beautiful—in the simple words of Scripture. While our old Adam loves to turn the issue on its head, the question isn’t whether or not the Scriptures are clear, for they are, but rather whether the interpreter is (Gerhard O. Forde, The Captivation of the Will: Luther vs. Erasmus on Freedom and Bondage, 27).
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The Scriptures are not a tool. We don’t take them up and do as we see fit. If anyone or anything is a tool, we are. The Scriptures lay hold of us. Yes, the Scriptures often come to us by the feet, in the hands, and through the mouths of another, but that another is a tool also. God is at work, through His Word, giving what His Word has done, doing what His Word promises and died and rose to deliver. We do ourselves and God a disservice when we forget that. God bought us with His Word. God placed His Word on us and buried us in it in Baptism. He feeds us with it in Holy Communion. He absolves us with it. God words His Word to us every day and it is by that Word alone that we live. The Word became Man and dwelt among us and by His Word He is with us still, delivering the benefits of His cross, claiming lame horses for His own—horses no one else in their right mind would claim. And so, may we, with the earliest Lutherans and with all believers of all time, confess what Isaiah first declared and Peter echoed, not by compulsion, but willingly, because God’s election, made our election through the Gospel—has forced us to do so, against our will, but now most gladly in accord with it, torn as we are as sinner-saints. “The word of the Lord remains forever” (Is. 40:8; 1 Peter 1:25). What is this word? “This word is the good news that was preached to you” (1 Peter 1:25). What will it do? “It shall not return to me empty” (Is. 55:11).
The following is an excerpt from An Uncompromising Gospel: Lutheranism’s First Identity Crisis and Lessons for Today written by Wade Johnston (1517 Publishing, 2016). Used with Permission.