I sometimes get worried by the attitude some of my brothers and sisters have to the Bible. It is the attitude that says "if I can find a verse for it - it must be right" or "If I can find a verse against it, it must be wrong".
I remember clearly my time at university in the Christian Union where, as in most CU's of the time, fierce debates took place on whether scripture was inerrant or merely infallible (!) The Word of God is the source of our faith we were told - without the Bible we would not know the will of God - it is the source of our understanding of God. Whatever we need to know, there will be a verse somewhere with the answer to our question, if only we look hard enough!
Now don't get me wrong, I do believe that the Bible contains everything necessary for salvation. I also believe that it is inspired by God for our "teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness" (2 Timothy 3:16). But I also worry that we can take that too far, believing that the Bible gives us the full picture of the will of God on every conceivable subject.
The Bible does not claim to tell us everything about God.
- Jesus said that if we don't believe when he tells us of things on earth, how can he explain the things of heaven? (John 3:12)
- And John's gospel ends by pointing out that if all the things that Jesus did were written down, "the whole world would not have room for the books that would be written." (John 21:25)
Indeed, Jesus did not say that when the Scriptures are complete, they will guide us into all truth - he did, of course, say that "when The Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you in all truth".
And there is the key to our understanding of the scriptures. I believe that they are the inspired word of God, but without the Spirit of Jesus at work in our lives they remain just words. When I recall that "The word of God is living and active" (Hebrews 4:12), I must also remember that it is Jesus who is the complete, living Word of God in all its fullness (John 1) and that it is only in Him that I can begin to understand the mystery of God's will.
If we really want to know what God wants of us, the Bible is the first place we should look, but as we read, we need to ask the Holy Spirit to open our hearts and minds to Jesus Christ, the living Word of God, rather than simply looking for proof texts.
There were those in the Bible who looked for proof texts, and who tried to sew everything up in a neat and tidy bundle. They were the Pharisees. I don't think that Pharisees were particularly bad people on the whole - they had just become so focused on the letter of God's law that they forgot the Spirit of that law. Everything they taught could, I am sure, be traced back to the written word of God, and yet they had got it so wrong, as my Gospel reading reminded me today (Matthew 23:13-22).
I f we are to avoid the same mistake, we need to remember that the Word of God is indeed living and active - and we need to invite Him into our hearts to help us as we read.