Close Menu X

Michael Horton on the Message of the Bible

It’s important, I think, to be regularly reminded that the the Bible is not an instruction manual for life, or a flowchart for wise decision-making, or a guide for healthy relationships. It’s helpful to be reminded because the drift into that thinking is natural for many of us without gentle re-direction. “Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it.” Many of us seem to be spring-loaded for a therapeutic-moralistic approach to the Bible and the Christian life. While God certainly offers his wise guidance in Scripture, and there is certainly no better source for counsel than the Bible, it’s not chiefly about what to do and how to do it... not primarily.

Michael Horton on the subject from an article in Modern Reformation Magazine:

“Audaciously, Jesus accused the biblical scholars of his day of not knowing the Scriptures (Mt 29:29; Lk 24:45) and declared, ‘You diligently study the Scriptures because you think that by them you possess eternal life. These are the Scriptures that testify about me, yet you refuse to come to me to have life’ (Jn 5:39). After his Resurrection, our Lord explained the Scriptures on the Emmaeus road. But first, he sharply rebuked the two disciples for failing to read the Old Testament with himself at the center: ‘How foolish you are, and how slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken!'...And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself’ (Lk 24:27). Imagine the power of that sermon! No wonder their hearts burned within them. Jesus here teaches us how we are to read and preach the Bible. It is not chiefly about Bible heroes or lessons in life, but the revelation of Christ. Similarly, Peter reminds us that the chief message of the entire Old Testament is "the sufferings of Christ and the glories that would follow" (1 Pt 1:10-11).

“To preach the Bible as ‘the handbook for life,’ or as the answer to every question, rather than as the revelation of Christ, is to turn the Bible into an entirely different book. This is how the Pharisees approached Scripture, however, as we can see clearly from the questions they asked Jesus, all of them amounting to something akin to Trivial Pursuits: ‘What happens if a person divorces and remarries?’ ‘Why do your disciples pick grain on the Sabbath?’ ‘Who sinned--this man or his parents--that he was born blind?’ For the Pharisees, the Scriptures were a source of trivia for life's dilemmas. To be sure, Scripture provides God-centered and divinely-revealed wisdom for life, but if this were its primary objective, Christianity would be a religion of self-improvement by following examples and exhortations, not a religion of the Cross. This is Paul's point with the Corinthians, whose obsession with wisdom and miracles had obscured the true wisdom and the greatest miracle of all. And what is that? Paul replies, ‘He has been made for us our righteousness, holiness and redemption’ (1 Cor 1:28-31).”