Friday, August 31, 2007

The Atoning Work of Christ

The Blood of Christ and the Drama of Redemption ● Hebrews 9:11-28
Dr. Kevin Shrum

Introduction: Just a few weeks ago I began a series entitled ‘The Doctrine Everyone Must Know: The Doctrine of Salvation.’ That is, every person must know and understand how a person is made right with God, is reconciled to God, is ‘saved’ by God. It is too simple to just say ‘Jesus died for our sins.’ He did, but there is so much more. Why did He die? What did His death mean? And how are we saved through His death and subsequent resurrection? With heresy on the rise, we cannot afford to be ‘soteriologically [salvation] ignorant.’
I first preached on the total depravity of the sinner, the lost condition of the humanity (8.19.07). This initial message was followed by a message that further explained the nature and scope of our sinful rebellion from God and the death of our consciences before a Holy God (8.26.07/a.m. service). The next message hit the second point of salvation by addressing the issue of God’s eternal decree to save a people for Himself out of the masses of sinful humanity (8.26.07/p.m. service). We now come to third dimension of salvation – the atoning work of Christ. In essence, if we are sinners and God chooses to save a people for Himself, then how does He atone for their sins? How does God remedy our sin problem? How does the drama of divine redemption unfold?

Scene 1
The quick answer is that God atones for our sin through the shed blood of Jesus Christ, His Son. What does this mean? Let’s begin at the beginning. You will recall that soon after God had created the world and His beautiful creation, mankind ‘fell’ into sin through disobedience and rebellion (Gen. 3:1-7). Because of sin, man was separated from God and attempted to cover up his sinful deeds (Gen. 3:7). God brought judgment on His creation by pronouncing a 1) curse on the woman, 2) a curse on the man, 3) a curse on Satan and 4) even a curse on the natural order of things (Gen. 3:8-21). Because of the sin of Adam and Eve a separation between a Holy God and sinful man emerged (Gen. 3:22-24). First man/woman would no longer know the sweet, intimate fellowship they had had with God – and this is true even today for those who are outside of Christ.
We are given the first clue as to how God would cover our sin in Genesis 3:21 where God takes one of the animals He had created, kills it and makes garments to cover the nakedness of Adam and Eve: “The Lord God made garments of skin for Adam and his wife and clothed them.” Notice that God covered them. They had attempted to cover themselves. Genesis 3:7 notes, “Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they realized they were naked; so they sewed fig leaves together and made coverings for themselves.” Because of their sin the ‘cover up’ had begun and continues to this day. The fig leaves represent man-made religion, human wisdom and arrogance. The covering God provided for Adam and Eve with the skins of a sacrificed animal was a picture of both God’s 1) judgment and 2) grace. It is a judgment because by covering them with the skins of a sacrificed animal God was saying that their coverings were not good enough, they were inadequate (Gen. 3:7). Any attempt to cover sin with anything other than the covering provided by God will be judged as inadequate and as an extension of the consequences of sin.
But the covering provided by God for the sin of Adam and Eve is not only a picture of God’s judgment, it is also a picture of God’s grace. God covered their nakedness. This gracious act would be a sign and a symbol of things to come! God would not only judge sin, He would atone for sin through the blood of His Son, Jesus Christ.

Scene 2
We now fast-forward to Old Testament books of Exodus and Leviticus where the simple act of sacrifice and covering is institutionalized in the Levitical priesthood and Temple sacrificial system. Exodus 11-12 tells us of the first Passover where the only way to escape death was through the blood of a sacrificed animal splattered on the doorposts of all who believed. All those covered by the blood would be ‘passed over’ by death; all those without the covering of blood experienced death.
Then, in Exodus 24:1-8 the covenant of God with His people established in the Law was sealed with the sprinkling of blood on the people of God, the priests of God and on the Book of the Law. While there were many sacrifices offered throughout the year, once a year the High Priest would enter the Holy Holies, the Most Holy Place, on the Day of Atonement and offer a blood sacrifice for his own sins and the sins of the people (Lev. 16:1ff.). This system was instituted by God and was to be followed meticulously and yearly.

Scene 3
But the coverings provided by God in Genesis 3 and through the priestly, Temple system were temporary until the real and eternal sacrifice would come in the person of Jesus Christ. Hebrews 9:11-28 lays it out in clear and concise terms:
“When Christ came as high priest of the good things that are already here, He went through the greater and more perfect tabernacle that is not man-made, that is to say, not a part of this creation. 12 He did not enter by means of the blood of goats and calves; but he entered the Most Holy Place once for all by His own blood, having obtained eternal redemption. 13 The blood of goats and bulls and the ashes of a heifer sprinkled on those who are ceremonially unclean sanctify them so that they are outwardly clean. 14 How much more, then, will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself unblemished to God, cleanse our consciences from acts that lead to death, so that we may serve the living God! 15 For this reason Christ is the mediator of a new covenant, that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance—now that he has died as a ransom to set them free from the sins committed under the first covenant. 16 In the case of a will, it is necessary to prove the death of the one who made it, 17 because a will is in force only when somebody has died; it never takes effect while the one who made it is living. 18 This is why even the first covenant was not put into effect without blood. 19 When Moses had proclaimed every commandment of the law to all the people, he took the blood of calves, together with water, scarlet wool and branches of hyssop, and sprinkled the scroll and all the people. 20 He said, ‘This is the blood of the covenant, which God has commanded you to keep.’ 21 In the same way, he sprinkled with the blood both the tabernacle and everything used in its ceremonies. 22 In fact, the law requires that nearly everything be cleansed with blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness. 23 It was necessary, then, for the copies of the heavenly things to be purified with these sacrifices, but the heavenly things themselves with better sacrifices than these. 24 For Christ did not enter a man-made sanctuary that was only a copy of the true one; he entered heaven itself, now to appear for us in God’s presence. 25 Nor did he enter heaven to offer himself again and again, the way the high priest enters the Most Holy Place every year with blood that is not his own. 26 Then Christ would have had to suffer many times since the creation of the world. But now he has appeared once for all at the end of the ages to do away with sin by the sacrifice of himself. 27 Just as man is destined to die once, and after that to face judgment, 28 so Christ was sacrificed once to take away the sins of many people; and he will appear a second time, not to bear sin, but to bring salvation to those who are waiting for him.”

This amazing passage lays out the nature and scope of our redemption that has come in the person if Jesus Christ. What began Scene 1 in the Garden of Eden as God covered the sin of His creatures and what was institutionalized Scene 2 as God established a yearly atonement through the sacrifice of a slaughtered lamb culminates in Scene 3 and the ultimate and final word from God on sacrifice and atonement. Let’s look at this passage through four words – priest, mediator, will and the real!

The Priest, vs. 11-14
When God decided to reveal the final episode of His redemptive plan He did so through His Son who would come as our High Priest. Christ came as our Priest “…of the good things that are already here…” meaning that the redemption offered in God’s previous provisions of grace would now be complete in Jesus Christ.
As the High Priest He did not enter into a man-made building or Temple, but He entered into the very presence of God with His own blood and not that of a goat, a bull or a lamb. The atonement offered in the Levitical system made God’s people ceremonially clean, but not eternally and internally clean. This is why the High Priest had to offer a yearly sacrifice to God in the Holy of Holies.
But now that Jesus Christ has come as our High Priest His blood cleanses us internally and eternally so that we are clean before God, so clean that we do not need a yearly sacrifice to atone for our sins – Jesus Christ has now offered Himself as the once-for-all atonement for sin.

The Mediator, vs. 15
As a result, Jesus Christ is our mediator: “For this reason Christ is the mediator of a new covenant, that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance—now that he has died as a ransom to set them free from the sins committed under the first covenant.” In Jesus Christ we are set free from sin and receive the “…promised eternal inheritance…” God has ransomed His own and set His people free from the bondage of sin.

His Will, vs. 16-22
Through the death of Christ the will of God is set in motion. Just as an earthly will is not in effect so long as the person who made the will is alive (vs. 16-18), so, too, God’s will is put into effect by the blood of Jesus Christ. Just as Moses sanctified God’s people by splattering blood on the people and the scroll of the Law as they dedicated themselves to keep the Law (Ex. 24:6-8), Christ sanctifies us by His blood. This is why “…without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness.” (vs. 22) God’s will to forgive us and give us all things is enacted by the death of Jesus Christ.

The Real, vs. 23-28
Christ’s death demonstrates what is real. The entire Levitical system was a copy of the real Holy of Holies and the sacrifice needed to redeem sinners. When Jesus came to end the sacrificial system of the Old Testament, He came as a man, died on a cross, shedding His blood as the sinless Lamb of God. Christ then “…entered heaven itself, now to appear for us in God’s presence.” Jesus Christ is not only our High Priest, He is the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of sinners. This amazing two-fold function of Jesus Christ is the core of God’s plan of redemption. The Levitical system of sacrifice required that the High Priest offer a sacrifice for the people as well as Himself Leviticus 16). But now Christ serves as both our High Priest and the sacrificial Lamb whose blood was shed to cover the sins of His people.
Because His sacrifice was perfect, He did not “…enter heaven to offer Himself again and again, the way the High Priest enters the Most Holy Place every year with blood that is not his own.” If Jesus had to be crucified afresh each year or each time we worship He would have had to “…suffer many times since the creation of the world.” Instead, “…He appeared once for all at the end of the ages to do away with sin by the sacrifice of Himself.” This means that what many thought was real - the Temple system of worship and sacrifice - was simply a copy of the real thing that came in the person of Jesus Christ.
What is real is that “Just as man is destined to die once, and after this to face judgment, so Christ was sacrificed once to take away the sins of many people…” All flesh will die. And all flesh will face the judgment of God. Because of sin we will not be able to stand in judgment without something miraculous taking place. This is why the parallel states that Jesus Christ appeared once to take away that which would cause us not to be able to stand in the judgment - sin.
What is real is that Jesus “…will appear a second time, not to bear sin, but to bring salvation to those who are waiting for Him.” Jesus came the first time to take away our sin, which is the down-payment of our salvation. When Jesus comes again He will bring the salvation we have in Him to a glorious culmination. All things will be complete and what is most real will be made clear. Jesus Christ will come not as a sacrificed Lamb, but as King of King and Lord of Lords (Rev. 19:11-21; 20:11-15; 21:22).

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Predestination, Election and God's Sovereign Choice

God’s Electing Purposes
Dr. Kevin Shrum

A few weeks ago I began a series on ‘The Doctrine Everyone Must Know: Salvation.’ It was my purpose to remind us that the gospel is God-centered and not man centered. We began with one point that is two-sided – 1) we are helpless, hopeless, hell-bent, hell-bound, deserving-of-God’s-wrath sinners and 2) Jesus is a great Savior. It was humbling to hear the depth of our depravity made explicit in two graphic verses in Ephesians 2:1-2, “As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient.”

Scripture teaches that humans are not free moral agents in the way many people think we are free. In other words, we are not neutral with the freedom to choose either good or bad. Rather, we are enslaved to sin, dead in sin and under the wrath and judgment of God because of our sin. We are free to choose our own poison, like the prisoner is free to walk the prison yard. Is the prisoner free? Yes, he is free within the bondage of his will to choose his sin of choice, but he is not truly free in a neutral kind of way. This is why God saves us!

We Baptists are a ‘whosoever will’ kind of people. We believe that we are to preach the gospel to all people using as many different kinds of methods as possible, so long as they do not compromise the gospel message itself. But we are also a people who strongly believe in the sovereign, electing purposes of God. The very reason we believe in the doctrine of the security of the believer is that we believe that we didn’t save ourselves so we can’t lose what we didn’t have to earn (John 17:6; Jude 24-25). So, we preach the gospel and God saves.

Our history as Southern Baptists is rooted in a belief that God will not be surprised by who is saved because, as Ephesians 1:4 notes, “For He chose us in Him (Jesus Christ) before the creation (foundation) of the world to be holy and blameless in His sight.” Most of our founders, such as Dr. B.H. Carroll, who founded Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Ft. Worth, TX and Dr. E.Y. Mullins, founder of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, and Dr. James Pettigrew Boyce, were out of the tradition that placed a heavy emphasis on the sovereign, saving, electing purposes of God. In other words, our heritage as Baptists is rooted in the 'doctrines of grace.' While we call every sinner to repent and believe, Baptists have always affirmed that there is another prior factor involved in the mystery of the gospel – God is purposing, planning and willing, as well.

One of the oldest segments of the ‘Baptist Faith and Message’ concerns the mystery and power of the gospel. Entitled ‘God’s Purpose of Grace,’ the BF&M states:

[“Election is the gracious purpose of God, according to which He regenerates, justifies, sanctifies, and glorifies sinners. It is consistent with the free agency of man, and comprehends all the means in connection with the end. It is the glorious display of God's sovereign goodness, and is infinitely wise, holy, and unchangeable. It excludes boasting and promotes humility. All true believers endure to the end. Those whom God has accepted in Christ, and sanctified by His Spirit, will never fall away from the state of grace, but shall persevere to the end. Believers may fall into sin through neglect and temptation, whereby they grieve the Spirit, impair their graces and comforts, and bring reproach on the cause of Christ and temporal judgments on themselves; yet they shall be kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation.
Genesis 12:1-3; Exodus 19:5-8; 1 Samuel 8:4-7,19-22; Isaiah 5:1-7; Jeremiah 31:31ff.; Matthew 16:18-19; 21:28-45; 24:22,31; 25:34; Luke 1:68-79; 2:29-32; 19:41-44; 24:44-48; John 1:12-14; 3:16; 5:24; 6:44-45,65; 10:27-29; 15:16; 17:6,12,17-18; Acts 20:32; Romans 5:9-10; 8:28-39; 10:12-15; 11:5-7,26-36; 1 Corinthians 1:1-2; 15:24-28; Ephesians 1:4-23; 2:1-10; 3:1-11; Colossians 1:12-14; 2 Thessalonians 2:13-14; 2 Timothy 1:12; 2:10,19; Hebrews 11:39–12:2; James 1:12; 1 Peter 1:2-5,13; 2:4-10; 1 John 1:7-9; 2:19; 3:2..]

God Saves a People for Himself
What all of this means is that while we are preaching the gospel to all people, we can do so with confidence, knowing that God will save many because He has chosen for Himself a people to save out of the masses of sinful humanity. Remember, Scripture teaches that we are dead in our sins (Eph. 2:1; Col. 2:13) and cannot save ourselves. He has to save us because we cannot save ourselves. He saves a people for Himself not based upon our choosing of Him, but His choosing of sinners to be saved. In John 15:16 Jesus told His disciples, “You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit – fruit that will last.” Another example of God’s electing purposes was His choosing of Israel. Why did God choose Israel?

Why did God choose Israel? He chose them because He wanted to. He chose them out of all the nations. He did not choose all nations to serve Him. Deuteronomy 7:6-9 states, “For you are a people holy to the LORD your God. The LORD your God has chosen you out of all the peoples on the face of the earth to be his people, his treasured possession. 7 The LORD did not set his affection on you and choose you because you were more numerous than other peoples, for you were the fewest of all peoples. 8 But it was because the LORD loved you and kept the oath he swore to your forefathers that he brought you out with a mighty hand and redeemed you from the land of slavery, from the power of Pharaoh king of Egypt. 9 Know therefore that the LORD your God is God; he is the faithful God, keeping his covenant of love to a thousand generations of those who love him and keep his commands.”

How and why does God elect a people for Himself?
· When the disciples acted surprised that Jesus had washed their feet, He reminded them that He knew exactly what He was doing and He also knew those who were His and those who were not His: John 13:18 states that Jesus looked at His disciples and said, “I know those I have chosen.”
· In Matthew 24:22 Jesus stated that the days of persecution surrounding the end of time would be cut short “for the sake of the elect.”
· In Luke 18:7 Jesus reminded His disciples of God’s purpose in election: “And will not God bring about justice for His chosen ones, who cry out to Him day and night?"
· Jesus said in John 6:44 and 6:65 that we do not come to God on our own whim, we can only come as the Father draws the sinner – “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him, and I will raise him up at the last day.”
· In John 10:24-27 Jesus talked about the gift of a people God the Father gave to Him, “Then came the Feast of Dedication at Jerusalem. It was winter, 23 and Jesus was in the temple area walking in Solomon’s Colonnade. 24 The Jews gathered around him, saying, ‘How long will you keep us in suspense? If you are the Christ, tell us plainly.’ 25 Jesus answered, 'I did tell you, but you do not believe. The miracles I do in my Father’s name speak for me, 26 but you do not believe because you are not my sheep. 27 My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. 28 I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one can snatch them out of my hand. 29 My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of my Father’s hand. 30 I and the Father are one.” Notice that the text says that they did not believe because they were not His sheep; it does not say they were not His sheep because they did not believe.
· Romans 8:28-33 – “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. 29 For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. 30 And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified. 31 What, then, shall we say in response to this? If God is for us, who can be against us? 32 He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things? 33 Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies.”
· Titus 1:1-3 – “Paul, a servant of God and an apostle of Jesus Christ for the faith of God’s elect and the knowledge of the truth that leads to godliness 2 a faith and knowledge resting on the hope of eternal life, which God, who does not lie, promised before the beginning of time, 3 and at his appointed season he brought his word to light through the preaching entrusted to me by the command of God our Savior…”
· 1 Peter 1:1-2 – “Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, To God’s elect, strangers in the world, scattered throughout Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia and Bithynia, 2 who have been chosen according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, through the sanctifying work of the Spirit, for obedience to Jesus Christ and sprinkling by his blood: Grace and peace be yours in abundance..”

Question: If we preach a ‘whosever will’ gospel to all, why do some will to come and others not will to come? Answer: because they do not believe. Question: But why do some believe and others not believe? Answer: Some do not will to come because of their unbelief because there is another factor involved – God’s eternal purposes. Example – Acts 13:44-48:
“On the next Sabbath almost the whole city gathered to hear the word of the Lord. 45 When the Jews saw the crowds, they were filled with jealousy and talked abusively against what Paul was saying. 46 Then Paul and Barnabas answered them boldly: ‘We had to speak the word of God to you first. Since you reject it and do not consider yourselves worthy of eternal life, we now turn to the Gentiles. 47 For this is what the Lord has commanded us: ‘I have made you a light for the Gentiles, that you may bring salvation to the ends of the earth.’48 When the Gentiles heard this, they were glad and honored the word of the Lord; and all who were appointed for eternal life believed.”

Notice very closely verse 48, “When the Gentiles heard this, they were glad and honored the word of the Lord; and all who were appointed for eternal life believed.” Shouldn’t it read, “…and all who believed were appointed for eternal life?” In other words, according to our senses we think it should say that God appoints us based upon our belief in Him; instead, it states that we believe because God has appointed us to believe! It reads that 1) all who were appointed for eternal life heard the gospel and 2) believed. The appointment preceded the belief. Amazing! God was at work.

Then what must we do in response to God’s eternal, electing purposes?
· Humility! We should first and foremost be humbled in knowing that God’s electing purposes will be served according to the counsel of His own will in ways that bring Him glory! Too often we look at salvation in a whimsical fashion. It should humble us that God is in charge!
· Evangelism/Missions! We are to preach the gospel to every creature, in every tongue, to every tribe so that the elect can hear the gospel, be awakened from the deadness of their sin and believe. God’s electing purposes does not obliterate evangelism and missions; instead, it fuels missions and evangelism because God has not only chosen a people for Himself, but He has ordained the means, the methods by which sinners are saved. Therefore, we must preach, pray, teach, witness, share, care, etc. (Mt. 28:16-20; Acts 1:7-8) In fact, most of the great missionary movements in the history of the church were started by men with a supreme confidence in God’s sovereign work in salvation and who affirmed the doctrines of grace.
· Repent/Believe! If we hear the gospel and God moves in our hearts, then we must respond to the gospel and not harden our hearts. Hebrews 3:7-11 urges us that if we hear the gospel and do not respond we will not be saved, “So, as the Holy Spirit says: ‘Today, if you hear His voice, do not harden your hearts as you did in the rebellion, during the time of testing in the desert, where your fathers tested and tried Me and for forty years saw what I did. That is why I was angry with that generation, and I said, ‘Their hearts are always going astray, and they have not known my ways.’ So I declared an oath in my anger, ‘They shall never enter my rest.’”
· Evaluation! We must also evaluate ourselves in making our calling and election, as 2 Peter 2:3-11 notes. We cannot presume upon the grace of God, but must respond to His call.
· Submission! Finally, we are to humble ourselves before the mystery of God’s purposes. There is no place for pride or arrogance when it comes to salvation. Romans 9:1ff. is one of the most heart-wrenching passages in all of the Bible. It speaks of God’s freedom to choose a people for Himself. And yet Paul says in Romans 9:3-4, “For I could wish that I myself were cursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my brothers, those of my own race, the people of Israel.” Yet, not all will be saved. Nevertheless, Paul begins Romans 10:1 by saying, “Brothers, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for Israel is that they may be saved.” So, Paul preached and we preach so that God can save those chosen in Him before the foundation of the world.
· And how does this work? Acts 16:11-15 describes the salvation of a woman named Lydia of Philippi, “One of those listening (to Paul preach the gospel) was a woman named Lydia, a dealer in purple cloth from the city of Thyatira, who was a worshiper of God. The Lord opened heart to respond to Paul’s message.” Paul preached, the Lord opened Lydia's heart and as a result Lydia was enabled to believe the gospel!
· We preach the gospel to all people and God does the convicting, the drawing, the saving, and the redeeming of sinners to the praise of His glory! When all is said and done Revelation 13:8 will be true, “All inhabitants of the earth will worship the beast – all whose names have not been written in the book of life belonging to the Lamb that was slain from (or before) the creation of the world.” God will not be disappointed, surprised or depressed by who is in heaven. We are great sinners and He is a great Savior! [see John 6:35-40; John 17:1-6, 9, 12]

Monday, August 20, 2007

Where's Your Bible?

Where’s Your Bible?
Kevin Shrum

Christians often claim that they are a ‘people of the book.’ Yet, it appears there is widespread biblical illiteracy among God’s people. How often have I heard someone say, ‘I know it says so-and-so somewhere in the Bible,’ yet could not locate the Scripture reference if their life depended on it. They think they know it says it but aren’t quite sure that it actually says it and, even if what they say is in the Book is actually in the Book, they have no clue where to find it in the Book. So, are we really a people of the Book?

Are we like those noble Bereans, “examining the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so?” (Acts 17:11)

Let me ask three questions that may help us return to the Book.

Where’s the Book? A question of physical location!
Like it or not, being ‘a people of the Book’ requires that we actually own one, that we read it and that we meditate on it daily. I believe that every person should have a Bible whose cover is stained with the oil from its owners hands. I believe that it is important to be physically familiar with a Bible’s pages, the location of its content and even its study helps. There is something about having a Bible that is familiar to its owner.

There are many factors that have led to a physical distance between the believer and his/her Bible. For example, the trend these days is to display Scripture verses in worship service on video screens. The result is that the attendee is not required to bring his/her Bible to worship service. The excuses I have heard for this trend are: 1) there is no longer a singularity of a dominate Bible translation and 2) looking at one’s Bible actually hinders listening to the sermon. To the first rationale, I would agree to a degree. In any given service you will find numerous translations of Scripture. The day of the 'homogeneous translation' is gone. This can make it a challenge to preach through a text with everyone on the same page grammatically and textually. However, I would rather struggle with this challenge than to not have the attendee bring his/her Bible at all.

To the second rationale, I would say that even if looking at the Bible is a distraction to listening to the preacher it’s a very good distraction.

Don’t misunderstand me. The church I pastor uses screens, media shout, power point and other forms of visual aid. We often visually display Scripture. My point is that anything that causes distance between me and the text should be minimized. When I’m not required to handle the Bible I will not handle the Bible.

In summary, too many Christians find too many excuses to be physically separated from the Book. As a result, many Christians play guessing games about the location of particular texts, spiritual ideas and theological concepts. This is why ‘a people of the Book’ read Scripture, pray over Scripture, meditate on Scripture, etc.

Where’s the Book? A question of spiritual authority!
‘A people of the Book’ also know the spiritual location of the Bible. That is, God’s people understand that the Bible is the authority for their faith and practice. The Bible is not a suggestion Book; it is command central for God’s people. To answer the question of the spiritual authority of the Bible is to ask the question of obedience (John 8:31-32). If I am a Christian, do I operate under the authority of the Bible? So, where is the Bible in my life when it comes to operating under its authority?

Where’s the Book? A question of estimation!
Finally, where’s the Bible in my intellectual framework? Do I see it for what it is – God’s Word? Or, is it just another book?

The Christian believes that the Bible is the inspired Word of God. It is not a word about God; it is the Word of God. Jesus affirmed it (Mt. 5:17-20), the Spirit inspired it (2 Timothy 3:16-17; 2 Peter 1:16-21) and God has established it (Ps. 19 & 119). The first two questions of physical location and spiritual authority are more easily answered when this third question of estimation is answered. To believe that the Bible is God’s Word settles a great number of questions in the mind of the believer and secures the Bible’s estimation in the life of the believer.

May we be a people of the Book!