Sunday I gave a testimony about how God graciously met with me early that morning. He spoke to me through His Word by His Spirit and it was a wonderful thing. But, lest anyone think that His speaking was due to an existential experience I had, I want to make a very important distinction. Each and every day I have my time alone with God, I open the Word of God. As I begin to read I am immediately experiencing the Word of God – every single word that I read IS His Word. The reason I am making a point of this is because of an errant theological view of God’s Word.
Let me give an example. When we read the Word you will hear me say, let us listen “to” the Word of God. There are traditions that will phrase that differently. They say, “As we read, let us listen ‘for’ the Word of God.”
Our statement represents the understanding that, “All Scripture is inspired by God,” (literally God-breathed). We believe that the words that we read ARE the Word of God. The view that we listen “for” the Word of God as we read implies that it is not until we have some kind of existential experience that God is speaking. (i.e. a feeling, a sense, an experience that God is speaking to us, in some circles the Greek word ‘rhema’ is used to say God is speaking in that moment) The way that this is described in theological circles is that - when we experience it – then what we read ‘becomes’ the Word of God. That is a heretical view of the Scriptures of the Old and New Testament.
Every word from Genesis 1:1 through Revelation 22:21 IS the Word of God. It is God speaking to us. To say that we need some kind of feeling, insight, or experience for it to be God’s Word is a very dangerous false doctrine. One of the dangers is that we ignore parts of Scripture because they don’t make us feel anything – or that we don’t have some kind of experience as we read it. There are even parts we may react negatively toward as we read them. The “listen FOR the Word of God” doctrine allows us to ignore them – and say that they are not the Word of God for us. Again, this is a very dangerous heresy – and one that I believe will be used with greater frequency to ignore God’s moral standards that don’t fit with contemporary moral views. The Bible becomes a smorgasbord where “we” determine what is right and what is not – what is Scripture and what is not.
One thing I want to say here that I hope is helpful is that when I read God’s Word there is not always an emotional response. Also there are times when I read it and it is instructive to me – and I don’t have the “sense” I had this past Sunday morning. Those times are just as important as ones I have that involve strong feelings. They are just as authoritative in speaking to any way I am living my life. When they speak of sin – I am just as guilty of breaking them – and just as hindered in my fellowship with God. Feeling or no feeling – sense or no sensation at all – warm fuzzys or just reading the words on the page – I am still hearing God speak.
Let me say something about the Bible. There are certain parts I can almost guarantee will have a greater impression on me than others. There are times in my yearly Bible trek that I am about to hit Leviticus that I almost dread it. Certain parts of 1 Chronicles (the first 10 chapters) will rarely bring about some existential feeling in me. But – I am still hearing God speak – because ALL of His Word is Him speaking. Some folks get excited when they are about to read the prophets – while others may not. I used to start Job almost rolling my eyes at what was going to be a daily dose of listening to his friends say, “Your wicked – that’s why all this bad stuff has happened to you,” only to then hear Job say, “Nuh-uh.” Yet – when reading it I was listening to God speak the whole time. NOTE: by the way throughout the 38 years I’ve been a believer and have read the Bible at least once a year – the Holy Spirit has taken me through every book of the Bible slowly at one time or another to have me understand much more closely what God is revealing of Himself through them. Yes – even through Leviticus, Numbers, and the genealogies in Genesis, Matthew, and Luke – and was thoroughly blessed because of it!
Saints, I mean no disrespect toward God’s Word in saying these things. I am only trying to help you grasp and understand that even though we may find some books more interesting than others – they all are God’s Word – and God is speaking when we read them. To hold the view that He is only speaking when we feel or sense something is only going to diminish His Word in our thinking – and eventually lead us to hold a very deficient view of the Scriptures. So the next time you open His Word and begin to read, remind yourself of this fact. It is all God-breathed! It is all profitable to you! It is all Him speaking and revealing Himself! Then read – thankful for the gracious times our emotions are stirred – but also thankful that whether they are or are not – we’ve just experienced God speaking to us and revealing Himself graciously to our understanding.