Apr 23 2023 - Romans 15 - What IS the Bible?

Speak, Lord, to our hearts this morning!

I am TRYING to finish Romans this morning. I realized I needed to go back a little bit.

Paul is showing, through the Old Testament – that this unity between Jew and Gentile is not new – it flows from the first book to the last – and is a theme that runs throughout.

I mentioned that we need to learn to read the Bible in its context – as Paul and those of that day read the Bible.

Romans 15:

8. Fathers, (Abraham)

9. "I will give praise to Thee among the Gentiles, (Psalm 18:49, Writings)

10. "Rejoice, O Gentiles, with His people." (Deut. 32”43, Law)

11. "Praise the Lord all you Gentiles, (Psalm 117:1, Writings)

12. "There shall come the root of Jesse, And He who arises to rule over the Gentiles, In Him shall the Gentiles hope.“ (Isaiah 11:10, Prophets)

Why does it matter?

Our view of the Bible and our understanding of the nature of scripture will significantly inform our approach to faith and discipleship.

I really believe that our understanding of what the Bible is and how the Bible works can have a very positive impact on our discipleship – but it can also have a negative impact on our discipleship.

It can be helpful – but at times, it can be harmful!

Feel free to ask questions as I go through – and if we get through this quick – we can finish Romans.

We have all developed an understanding of what the Bible is and how it works – even if we don’t know that.

Some say it is a blueprint or owner’s manual. Or a book of regulations. But when we talk about the nature of Scripture – Revelation, Inspiration, and Authority – and if you get the definition of those right, you pass the test! If you get those definitions wrong, well, good luck!

Most church organizations have a statement about the Bible - and they should – and they often read something like this – the Bible is the Holy Spirit inspired word of God. Some add inerrant, infallible, and truthful in all it affirms. That all sounds good – and it is good – EXCEPT – Christians and churches and denominations – all having similar statements and understandings – come to different views on many subjects and doctrines.

They may have the exact same statements and come to really different understandings of different topics. What is up with that?

From the Bible Project:

From page one to the final word, we believe the Bible is a unified story that leads to Jesus. This diverse collection of ancient books overflows with wisdom for our modern world. As we let the biblical story speak for itself, we believe the message of Jesus will transform individuals and entire communities.

I like this statement – you may prefer others. “As we let the biblical story speak for itself” – I believe it is important to let the Bible be the Bible -and read the Bible the way the Bible wants to be read!

There is a familiar saying – Don’t miss the forest for the trees

We know it means don’t get so wrapped up on the details that you miss the bigger picture.

I think sometimes, what we do – we miss the forest AND the trees – because we are focused on the leaves!

Leaves are really important – you cannot have a tree and you cannot have a forest if you don’t have leaves. But if you pull a leaf off a tree, admire it, press it, put it in your book… it dies. It is nice, but it is not serving its purpose. We take leaves out of the Bible and they become so important to us that we miss the story.

I think missing the story of the Bible hinders us in being faithful disciples. In mucho areas of our lives – we can look back and say – if I had had a better understanding of what God really said – it would be helpful! Whether it is raising children or being married or doing church or loving God!

I want to look at some of these leaves – this might be different – feel free to interrupt.

Promises, like leaves – are really important – and we have all experienced difficult times where God has given us a promise that we cling to that God has used to comfort, strengthen and get us through – and we should do that! That is part of what the Bible does for us. But at the same time – we cannot build our entire understanding of God by pulling out promises and putting them into a book called the Precious and Magnificent Promises of God.

Not all promises apply to you and me – they don’t! Some are for specific people – and only specific people! Some are for the Nation of Israel and only the nation of Israel.

Let me give you an example – infertility. We all know couples who may have struggled with infertility – and there are many in the Bible – Abraham and Sarah – God promised they would have a son – and they didn’t for a long time.

Then God said – I am coming back in a year and Sarah will have a son.

There are couples – who can take encouragement – that God knows what you need and He is engaged and involved with you – and those couples can pray – and sometimes God answers their prayers –


We also know folks who have not been able to have children – where that promise didn’t ‘work’ – not because they are less Christian or worse disciples – because not everything is a gift from God to everyone.

There are some verses that say if you do everything right that everything will work out. Two problems – 1 – you never do everything right.

2 – there are not really any verses that actually say that.

Second – we make the Bible speak directly to issues it does not speak to directly.

Let me give one – Birth control – Churches have different views. The Bible doesn’t speak directly to that – but you might be able to make a case against certain forms of birth control.

There are some verses that say that children are a gift – and we should let God gift us how He sees fit – and that is great for some – but I don’t think we should ever say that the Bible speaks against all forms of birth control.

Dating – some say it speaks against dating – but I don’t think the Bible even knew what dating is!

There is wisdom. And that is different from this is the only exact way to do something.

The Bible says nothing about Artificial Intelligence or ChatGPT. But there is wisdom. It can be scary – and we need wisdom! There is a lot of stuff in the world where we need wisdom.

We need to read the Bible – sometimes we read it as what God is against or for! The Bible is for and against many things! But if that is a leaf – where you are using it as a club, where the Bible is against things –

Some could say – the Bible is against tattoos! There is a verse that says something to that effect – And in the same section you could claim that the Bible is against cheeseburgers!

Romans – Differences of opinion – Capital punishment – some use Romans 13 to say the Bible is FOR Capital Punishment – (and it is a complex subject – so don’t be too sure) – but be aware of this – and I don’t have a solid conviction either way – but for those who hold that it is FOR Capital Punishment, you need to be for Holy Kissing – taught in Romans 16!

Next – we overemphasize certain things the Bible does not. Certain sins – sexual sin – number 7 on the Ten Commandments (I know it is not meant to be in order)

Wives – be subject to your husbands – some husbands like to emphasize that one.

Anchoring – we use a verse to anchor all the verses around. It must mean that all other verses revolve around that – 1 Tim. 2:12 – Some use it as an anchor for women’s roles in the church.

Romans 8:38-on – can be used for predestination.

Taking a literalistic approach. Some say – I take the Bible literally. I think they mean that they want to live like God tells them to – And I agree with the concept – but the reality is – no good protestant take the Bible literally –

“This is my body” – Catholics and orthodox may take those words literally – but they take some other sections not so literally.

The Bible is made up of different types of literature – songs, metaphor, prophecy, apocalyptic, poetry – etc. We need to read the Bible literaturally – to quote one of my favorite songwriters – the answer, my friend, is blowing in the wind… is it? Not literally – that is a poem – and when we understand it like that – boy does it have meaning.

One of his other songs - More little – the pump don’t work because the vandals took the handle – that one is literal.

There is a thread throughout all of scriptures that points to Jesus – multiple perspectives in multiple millennia – and they are fully human who wrote these things – but divinely inspired – there are four gospels – and boy, are they from different perspectives! Read Holy Week in each of the Gospels – how are they telling the story differently and why?

There are two accounts of the Ten Commandments – they are the same ten – but they are told differently in the two accounts. There are two givings of the law – Leviticus and Deuteronomy – and it is the same Law – but different perspectives.

Two creation stories in Genesis 1 and 2 – and even more in the rest of the Old Testament.

There are two histories of Israel – and if you count the Psalms – there are probably a dozen.

Samuel/Kings vs. Chronicles.

Two conquest stories in the Book of Joshua.

And last night I read in the Psalms (105 or 106) another conquest story from another perspective.

John Ference and I were talking – the Bible is like a diamond with many facets that reflect the light differently – and that is where the beauty comes from – and it is those different perspectives that reveal the beauty and the genius of the Bible, itself.

Cindy and I love hiking in the mountains.

Last summer I took this picture of Mt. Rainier. It was stunning when you see it in reality! This is from one side.

You used to be able to drive around to the other, but the roads were closed -and that was disappointing – because the other side offers a different perspective.

As we took off from Seattle – the Pilot came on – if you are seated on the left-hand side of the plane – and it was like we were on top of that – it is 14000 feet – and boy, was that a different perspective!

God has given us this book that is like that – and I would want us – I think that is so important to be able to see it for what it wants to be – because then you see it in all its beauty.

I did not even get to Romans – I think – let’s take a few minutes to pray – this is, intellectual maybe – well, can I really be intellectual? Maybe on the technical side.

We all have needs – we heard of a miscarriage this week…

If there are needs – let’s pray for them…

Romans 16: Now I commend to you our sister Phoebe, who is a servant of the church in Cenchrea, 2 so that you may welcome her in the Lord in a way worthy of the saints and provide her with whatever help she may need from you, for she has been a great help to many, including me.

3 Greet Prisca and Aquila, my fellow workers in Christ Jesus, 4 who risked their own necks for my life. Not only I, but all the churches of the Gentiles are grateful to them. 5 Also greet the church in their house.

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