“What does the Bible do?” may seem like a strange question. Perhaps, the following questions make more sense to you:
- What does the Bible say?
- What does the Bible mean?
- What does the Bible authorize?
What distinguishes our question from these three? The biggest difference I see is that the three questions are things we do. They are things that happen in our mind, conclusions that we draw.
These three questions require us to interpret the Bible. To evaluate the immediate context, the remote context, and even the cultural context.
The original question is not asking what we do but what the Bible does.
The three questions in my example have to do with science (the science of interpretation: hermeneutics) whereas the first question has more to do with experience.
Now, I understand that there is overlap because everyone interprets everything when they read because interpretation is just explaining the meaning of something, so even if that just happens in our head, interpretation is still going on.
Anyways, when we ask “what does the Bible do” we approach it from a different perspective. We don’t come to the text with a magnifying glass like a detective or a scientist with a scalpel. Instead, we come to it as the object in need of investigation or dissection. We allow the Bible to ask us questions, challenge us, and inspire us.
When we sit down to study with a list of questions or a goal in mind, we can often find whatever answers we may be looking for.
If you are looking to justify slavery, then there are people who have used the Bible to do that. If you are trying to deny women the right to pain killers during labor, then there are people who have had women burned at the stake while claiming to be led by the Scripture to do that.
Do you want to prove some theory, idea, or make some theological point? Well, thousands of pastors, preachers, and scholars study their Bibles daily and many of them, though they have different beliefs, feel that Scripture is on their side.
This way of reading the Bible is needed on some level, but not one of us will be saved by our intellectual capability. Of course, the idea that we need the Bible to be saved is a modern one. What of the millions of Christians, even those in the first century, who had no Bible in the way we do now or couldn’t even read? Were they lost? We are privileged to have the Bible. It, after all, is inspired by God, but what (or should I say Who) is it that saves us?
The same One that saved the people who didn’t know how to read is the same One who saves us: Jesus.
So, what does the Bible do? It reveals Jesus. As one of my friends says, “God didn’t give us the Bible so we could know the Bible; He gave us the Bible so we could know Him.” When we ask “what does the Bible do” we are putting the power back into God’s hands. We are putting our trust in Him, not our own intellectual ability, to save us.
Is it important to know what the Bible says? Is it important to know what the Bible means? Of course, but those things, which rely on our ability, are not as important as what the Bible actually does: reveal Jesus. As that same friend says, the Bible is a “Him” book.