LIFE TOGETHER, by Dietrich Bonhoeffer (1954)
 
Reading The Scriptures    (pp.50-55)
 
God’s Word is to be heard by everyone in his own way and according to the measure of his understanding. A child hears and learns the Bible for the first time in family worship; the adult Christian learns it repeatedly and better, and will never finish acquiring knowledge of its story.
Not only the young Christian but also the adult Christian will complain that the Scripture reading is often too long for her and that much therein she does not understand. To this it must be said that for the mature Christian every Scripture reading will be “too long”, even the shortest one. What does this mean ?
 
The Scripture is a whole and every word, every sentence possesses such multiple relationships with the whole that it is impossible always to keep the whole in view when listening to details. It becomes apparent, therefore, that the whole of Scripture and hence every passage in it as well far surpasses our understanding. It is good for us to be reminded of this fact, which again points to Jesus Christ himself, ” in whom are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge” (Col.2:3).
Because the Scripture is a corpus, a living whole, the so called  lectio continua or consecutive reading must be adapted for Scripture reading in the family fellowship. Historical books, Prophets, Gospels, Epistles, and Revelation are read and heard as God’s Word in their context. They set the listening fellowship in the midst of the wonderful world of revelation of the people of Israel with its prophets, judges, kings, and priests, its wars, festivals, sacrifices, and sufferings. The fellowship of believers is woven into the Christmas story, the baptism, the miracles and teaching, the suffering, dying, and rising again of Jesus Christ. It participates in the very events that occurred on this earth for the salvation of the world, and in doing so receives salvation in Jesus Christ.

Consecutive reading of Biblical books forces everyone who wants to hear to put himself, or to allow himself to be found, where God has acted once and for all for the salvation of mankind. We become a part of what once took place for our salvation. Forgetting and losing ourselves, we, too, pass through the Red Sea, through the desert, across the Jordan into the promised land. With Israel we fall into doubt and unbelief and through punishment and repentance experience again God’s help and faithfulness. 
    
We are torn out of our own existence and set down in the midst of the holy history of God on earth. There God dealt with us, and there He still deals with us, our needs and our sins, in judgment and grace. It is not that God is the spectator and sharer of our present life, however important that is; but rather that we are the reverent listeners and participants in God’s action in the sacred story, the history of Christ on earth. And only in so far as we are there, is God with us today also.
 
A complete reversal occurs. It is not in our life that God’s help and presence must still be proved, but rather God’s presence and help have been demonstrated for us in the life of Jesus Christ. It is in fact more important for us to know what God did to Israel, to His Son Jesus Christ, than to seek what God intends for us today. The fact that Jesus Christ died is more important than the fact that I shall die, and the fact that Jesus Christ rose from the dead is the sole ground of my hope that I, too, shall be raised on the Last Day. Our salvation is “external to ourselves.” I find no salvation in my life history, but only in the history of Jesus Christ. Only he who allows himself to be found in Jesus Christ, in his incarnation, his cross, and his resurrection, is with God and God with him.

In this light the whole devotional reading of the Scriptures becomes daily more meaningful and salutary. What we call our life, our troubles, our guilt, is by no means all of reality; there in the Scriptures is our life, our need, our guilt, and our salvation. Because it pleased God to act for us there, it is only there that we shall be saved. Only in the Holy Scriptures do we learn to know our own history. The God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob is the God and Father of Jesus Christ and our Father.
 
We must learn to know the Scriptures again, as the Reformers and our Fathers knew them. We must not grudge the time and the work that it takes. We must know the Scriptures first and foremost for the sake of our own salvation. But besides this, there are ample reasons that make this requirement exceedingly urgent. How, for example, shall we ever attain certainty and confidence in our personal and church activity if we do not stand on solid Biblical ground?
It is not our heart that determines our course, but God’s Word. But who in this day has any proper understanding of the need for scriptural proof? How often we hear innumerable arguments “from life” and “from experience” put forward as the basis for the most crucial decisions, but the argument from Scripture is missing. And this authority would perhaps point in exactly the opposite direction. It is not surprising, of course, that the person who attempts to cast discredit upon their wisdom should be the one who himself does not seriously read, know, and study the Scriptures. But the one who will not learn to handle the Bible for himself is not an evangelical Christian.
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 From LIFE TOGETHER (Harper & Row, Publishers)

   
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

 

One Response to “On Reading the Bible”

  1. Toddy2 Says:

    Celebrating Reformation Day all this week w/ newly arrived vol. of Reformation Commentary on Scripture – OT VII Psalms 1-72

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