Originally posted on the Bibles for America Blog.
Additionally, we’ve talked about the functions of the Word of God, what it does. Did you know the Word of God has at least six major functions? In this post, we’ll focus on just one: to testify concerning the Lord Jesus Christ.
What is “function” and why is it important to know?
The function of a thing is the purpose or intention for which it exists. Knowing the function of something determines how we approach it or use it. For example, we know the function of a microwave is to heat up food, so we use it that way. We don’t try to use it to open cans. But try to imagine we’d never seen a microwave before and we didn’t know its function. We might spend a lot of time punching its buttons and watching it run. After more experimenting, we might feel frustrated, knowing we’re just not getting out of it what we’re supposed to.
Disappointed, we might just give up and use it as a storage bin. But although we can use a microwave this way, that’s certainly not the way it was intended to be used. We wind up using it that way because we don’t know its true function, and we don’t get the full benefit from it.
In the same way, if we don’t know what the major functions of the Word of God are, we can spend a lot of time approaching the Bible in a way that was never intended. As a result, we don’t get the full benefit from God’s Word.
How do we approach God’s Word?
Our thought of what the purpose, the function, of the Word of God is will greatly affect how we approach it.
For example, let’s say we think the main function of God’s Word is to comfort us when we’re undergoing trials or to instruct us on ethical behavior. Then, whenever we open the Bible, we’ll look for verses that make us feel better or for guidelines for moral living. If we think the Bible’s primary function is to teach us important Christian doctrines, then we’ll study it, memorize it, and analyze it. Or, if we think the Bible’s function is to convey instructive and interesting stories about God’s people, then we’ll read it as a history book, or a story book.
Of course, we know that the Bible does do these things. We do receive God’s comfort in His Word. God’s Word also instructs His people in how they should live, and we’re often corrected and adjusted when we read it. And, certainly, the Word of God provides us proper knowledge concerning God, Christ, and the Christian life. The Scriptures do also give us important history we should know about God’s people. But these are not the primary functions of the Word of God. And when we’re focused on these things, we can miss the real benefit of this Book whose essence, content, and origin are God Himself.
How to read the Bible, according to the Lord Jesus
In order to gain from the Bible what God intended, we need to approach the Bible according to its main functions. Let’s look at two verses that can help us understand one specific function of the Scriptures—to testify concerning Christ.
1. John 5:39
“You search the Scriptures, because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is these that testify concerning Me.”
In John 5, the Lord Jesus was speaking to Jews who knew the Scriptures and who even searched them to find eternal life. Yet these “Scripture searchers” trusted only in the black and white letters of the Scriptures for life. They didn’t believe in the Lord Jesus as the One the Scriptures testified of, the One who could give life. As a result, they missed the life-giving Person standing right in front of them.
These Bible readers thought the Scriptures alone would provide them with eternal life. But the Lord Jesus stated clearly in verse 39 that the Scriptures actually testify of a wonderful Person—Himself. This Person was the only One who could give them life. But they didn’t make this connection. In the next verse, we see the problem: “Yet you are not willing to come to Me that you may have life.” They missed the Lord Jesus, the unique life-giver and the One the Bible testifies of, because they made the crucial mistake of separating the Scriptures from the Lord Jesus Himself.
How can we avoid making the same mistake today? We have to realize that God’s Word and Christ are one. The Bible is the written Word of God, and Christ is the living Word of God. If the written Word didn’t have the living Word, Christ, as its reality, it would be empty and simply a book of black and white letters. But without the written Word, Christ would be difficult for us to know, abstract and vague. The written Word testifies and expresses the Person of Christ, and Christ is the reality of the written Word. The two are one and should not be separated.
If in our thought the Word of God and Christ are two different things, we may acquire much scriptural knowledge and yet miss the life-giving Person of whom the Scriptures testify. When we read the Bible without coming to Him, instead of being enlivened and supplied, inwardly we feel empty and dry.
Note 1 on verse 39 in the Recovery Version says,
“To ‘search the Scriptures’ may be separated from ‘come to Me’ (v. 40). The Jewish religionists searched the Scriptures but were not willing to come to the Lord. These two should go together; because the Scriptures testify concerning the Lord, they should not be separated from the Lord. We may contact the Scriptures, yet not contact the Lord. Only the Lord can give life.”
So the key to our reading the Scriptures and gaining the benefit God intended is to never separate the written Word of God from Christ, the living Word of God. We shouldn’t come to the Bible thinking it’s a book of black and white letters whose function is mainly to teach us doctrines or show us a good way to live. Its function is to testify and reveal the living Person of Christ to us. When we come to the Word, we need to come to Christ. We need to come to the Bible with a heart that desires to have Christ revealed to us. When we approach God’s Word in this way, we won’t miss the living Person of whom the Scriptures testify.
2. Luke 24:44
“These are My words which I spoke to you while I was still with you, that all the things written in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and Psalms concerning Me must be fulfilled.”
The Lord Jesus spoke these words to His disciples after He resurrected from the dead, telling them that the entire Old Testament—the Law of Moses, the Prophets, and the Psalms—is a revelation of Himself.
What does this mean for our Bible-reading today?
The Law of Moses contains the details of the law God gave to the children of Israel, as well as much history. Yet the Lord clearly indicated that the aim of these books, and the rest of the Old Testament, isn’t merely for us to learn about the law or about interesting stories from the past. The true aim of these books is to testify concerning the living Christ.
For example, in Exodus 12 when the Israelites were to leave Egypt, God told Moses that each family had to take a lamb without blemish, slay it, sprinkle its blood on the doorpost, and eat its meat. If this account is just history to us, it may be interesting, but we don’t gain the real profit God has for us in it.
But if we realize that this Old Testament story speaks concerning Christ, a whole realm of the riches of Christ will be opened to us. We’ll see in the New Testament that Jesus is the fulfillment of this scene in Exodus. He is the unblemished Lamb, the One who was slain for us, shedding His sinless blood to redeem us, and He is the One who became our food, sustaining us for our journey out of the enslaving world. What a Christ is testified and revealed to us just in this one passage of Exodus!
Item after item in the Old Testament books is actually a picture of Christ, who is the fulfillment in the New Testament of every positive item. As Christ is revealed to us in God’s Word, we begin to experience Him as the fulfillment and reality of those pictures. We see more of who He is for our experience, and we appreciate and love Him more. The Old Testament truly reveals how rich our Christ is to us!
(To see more of how the Old Testament reveals Christ, we recommend one of our free books, The All-inclusive Christ.)
We know Christ through the written Word
We cannot know Christ by relying on our own thinking or imagination. But thank God! We have the Bible, and one of the major functions of the Bible is to reveal our Christ to us. The entire Word of God testifies of the living Person of Christ, showing all He is to us.
By His mercy, let’s learn to approach God’s Word in this way. Let’s come to the Lord Jesus when we open our Bibles. Let’s come with a heart open to Him, seeking to have more of His wonderful Person revealed to us. When we put on our “Christ eyeglasses” to read the Bible, we’ll see Him in every part of His Word. We’ll be blessed with fresh and new messages from the living Christ, and we’ll enjoy the One who gives life!
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