Cap's Corner: The word of God and Society

by Cap McIlnay

We hear a lot of people, not just us preachers, throwing around “the Word of God” in our society, and I want us to take a look at what the Word of God is. The main reason I want to talk about this is because, when people start to use the Word of God, it automatically gives what they say the ultimate authority. And to be honest, the Word of God can be used and abused for all sorts of things. Even evil things.

Most Christians (but not all) are convinced that the Scripture, the Word of God, is the primary source of and standard for our Christian doctrine. They believe that the Scripture, even though it was written by man, was inspired by the Holy Spirit. They also believe that, when people read Scripture, they too are assisted by the Holy Spirit. This gives, to some degree, the authorship of the Holy Bible to the Holy Spirit, which is God.

Now, to which degree each of us views the Holy Bible as the absolute Word of God differs, and we could spend loads of time looking at the pros and cons of what each degree that is. But for today, we just need to understand that it varies from taking Scripture as a literal reading (meaning that God spoke and wrote each and every word and therefore none of it can be wrong) to viewing Scripture as the Word of God revealed to flawed man -- and in such a way as that flawed people could understand in their time and place (the truth of God is found there, but it does not mean that everything in the Bible is actual fact). One example of where this can take people is by how old we see the planet earth. For those that view Scripture literally, the answer can only be about 6,000 years old. But those that do not view Scripture so literally say the world could be millions of years old. You can see where we could spend way too much time on this and get nowhere.

Regardless of the degree to which you view the literality of the Holy Bible, we can all agree that Scripture does reveal to us that we living in this world can find reconciliation with God through Jesus alone, that God truly does love us, that we can find His will in His Word, and that God is our creator, redeemer, and sustainer. We believe that, in Scripture, we can find all that we need to find salvation and to receive the Holy Spirit. And that, through faithful reading, we can come closer to God, have a better understanding of God, and strengthen our faith in God and His Son. Because of all of this, we believe that Scripture is the primary source for all things in relationship to and with God. The Holy Bible is where we start, where we stay, and where our theology should end. If our theology does not coincide with Scripture, then either the Scripture is wrong or our theology is wrong. In all cases, it would be our theology.

John Wesley believed that every family and every person should have a Bible and be able to read it, but there is danger in reading scripture. What I mean by this is that each of us can pick out different verses of Scripture and have different interpretations. Even with just one verse, each of us would most likely have different interpretations of what was written.

There needs to be some discipline in reading Scripture. When reading Scripture, you should also look into the historical context of that Scripture. When was it written? Who wrote it? Who was it written for? By looking at the historical context, you get a better chance of looking at those verses through the lenses of those that wrote it or of those it was written for. Just because it was not written in your time does not mean it was not written for you. What do I mean by that? When you have a better idea of the historical context, you have a better understanding of both the author and the audience. However, we don’t stay in the historical context. This is when the Holy Spirit often intervenes and helps you become aware of what God is saying to you through those historical writings.

Historical context is not the only context you can look into. You can look at the literary and textual studies as well, and all of these will help you have a better understanding of the original meaning. And by that understanding, you get to understand the intention as well.

So, why is this important? Because there are many people out there who are quoting the Word of God, and some of them are wolves in sheep’s clothing. They know that many of us will not have the discipline to look it up ourselves. They know that many of us will accept what they are saying as the Word of God, and it often times is not. I don’t care if it is a preacher or a politician: Do not let others tell you what God has said or what He is saying to you without checking to make sure that the preacher or the politician knows what he is speaking of.