We have reached a point in history where the Bible is available to practically everyone. We can even carry it around on our smart phones if we want to. We have access to all sorts of information about the Bible with a few clicks of a mouse or the slide of a finger. Things have changed drastically since the days when there were only a few Bibles copied by hand. And yet, some things have not changed at all. The meaning of Scripture has not changed. The truth contained in Scripture has not changed. The ability to properly discern the meaning of the text still resides with the Holy Spirit, not human technology. Our technology cannot match God.
Consider the account of the Ethiopian eunuch in Acts 8:31. The Apostle Phillip saw him reading from the prophet Esaias. So, Phillip, guided by the Spirit, approached the man and asked him if he understood what he was reading. The man replied, “How can I unless some man guides me?” So, Phillip explained (preached) to the man how the Scriptures pointed to Jesus Christ. The eunuch then asked to be baptized. He became a Christian, not because he read and understood the copy of the Scriptures he possessed, but because a Spirit-led, authoritative interpreter of that Scripture preached to him. That Ethiopian eunuch might as well have been sitting there Googling the Scripture on his iPhone. He still would have needed the apostolic authority guided by the Holy Spirit.
The Bible contains, among other things, Paul’s letters to various churches regarding many different topics such as salvation, end times, proper behavior of Christians, the Lord’s Supper, etc. Peter (the first pope and head of the apostles) also wrote some letters. In 2Peter 3:16, Peter mentions the letters of Paul. Peter writes that Paul’s letters contain information that is “hard to understand.” Not only are the letters hard to understand, but there are a lot of people twisting the truth of those letters “to their own destruction.” In other words, interpreting the Bible is difficult and dangerous. Peter then warns the Christians not to be led astray by people that are improperly interpreting Paul’s letters.
Having a laptop with fancy Bible software or a smart phone has not made it safer to interpret Scripture. In fact, it has probably increased the danger. We now live in a world of relativism, the antithesis of truth. People generally no longer believe in absolute truth. “You have your truth and I have my truth.” “You have your Bible interpretation and I have my Bible interpretation.” “You follow your Jesus and I’ll follow my Jesus.” This is partly the result of many Bibles with little or no guidance from apostolic authority. Jesus says, “I am the way, the truth and the life.” Pontius Pilot says, “What is truth?” and then washes his hands of it and crucifies Truth. Such is our world of mass information and relativistic mindset.
Can’t people become Christian in any church? Isn’t it even possible for people to pick up a Bible, read it, learn about Jesus and become Christian? Of course. But becoming Christian is only the beginning. Disciples must learn how to remain Christians, grow as Christians and conduct themselves as Christians. Just as we do not leave newborn babies to fend for themselves, The Master did not set us adrift on the winds of conflicting doctrines. Jesus did not leave us alone with only our Bibles. He left us a Church for guidance. When we ignore or abandon the apostolic guidance of that Church, we place ourselves in peril. When we act as if we know better than the Church that Jesus established and gave His own authority to, we place ourselves in peril. When we have devotion to the Bible but not to Christ’s Church, we place ourselves in peril. It is not the Bible that divides Christians; it is the issue of authority.
The question of authority extends even beyond the interpretation of Scripture. The Bible does not explicitly address certain issues facing modern Christians. While technology has given us smart phones, it has also enhanced our ability to “play God,” particularly in the beginning and ending stages of life. Science promises great power and ingenuity, but it does not promise morality or spiritual truth. If Christians are divided over moral issues that are addressed in the Bible, how much more will they be divided on issues where the Bible is silent? There has to be an authority to interpret Scripture and to address contemporary moral issues.
Keep your Bible on your phone, your Kindle, your laptop, your desktop or in a drawer by your bed if you wish. It matters not. What matters is the authority by which we discern the Bible. There are now literally thousands of conflicting interpretations and various lifestyles all claiming to be led by the Holy Spirit and all using the name “Christian.” It’s confusing. God is not the author of confusion (1Cor 14:33). We still need the apostolic, Spirit-led authority that unlocked the Scriptures for the Ethiopian eunuch. We don’t need more technology or Bibles, and we don’t need just any church or just any preacher; we need the Church preaching apostolic truth.
Great post! 1 God, 1 truth.
Yes, thank you very much!
Well said. I also think there is also a sort of “negative evidence” for the point you are making in the tendency of all breakaway groups (Anglicans, for example) to lose doctrinal purity over time. What Anglicans thought 100 years ago is quite different from what they think now.
Indeed. I’m glad many of them are coming home, and I hope the trend continues.