Where's the Comfort?
Three Different Ways to Read the Bible
“Where's the comfort?” That is the question I ask when I read the Scriptures. It's the first question I ask when looking over the text for the sermon or for Bible Class. Of course this isn't the only question that I ask, but it is the most important. This question helps get to the heart of the Scriptures, the glorious Gospel of our Lord Jesus. Where's the comfort? Where does this text deliver to me the comfort of the forgiveness of sins?
What should I do?
This isn't always the question I asked of the Scriptures. When Keri and I attended Evangelical churches we were taught to ask a different question. We would read a passage and ask, “What does this tell me to do today?” This question draws the instruction out of the text, and is certainly a good question to ask, but asking this question first make the Scriptures primarily into an instruction book, a law book, the “Basic Instructions Before Leaving Earth.” This is a common understanding of what the Bible is, but the Scriptures are always first and foremost about Jesus, His life and death and resurrection for us and for our salvation. If the first question we ask concerns the law, what we do, then we end in pride (“I'm doing pretty good at keeping these rules.”) or despair (“I can't believe I keep sinning.”). If the first question we ask concerns the law then we miss the very heart of God's Word: His great love for us.
What do I learn?
When we were becoming Lutheran I began to ask another question, “What theology does this text teach?” This is also a good question to ask of a Scripture passage, but asking this question first makes the Bible into a theology text book. Now it is true that the Scriptures (and the Scriptures alone) teach us about God and all that is true, but if the theology question is the first question we ask then we are reducing the Scriptures to a checklist of things to agree with. The danger with this question is that we might begin to prefer being right to being forgiven. The Scriptures are indeed perfect and true in every way, but their truth is the truth of Jesus crucified for our salvation.
Where's the Comfort?
This brings us back to the comfort of the Gospel in the Scriptures. If the Scriptures are chiefly a book about the gracious things that Jesus has done for us, then the Scriptures will always have some comfort for us. St Paul promises us this in Romans 15:4, “For whatever things were written for our learning, that we through the patience and comfort of the Scripture might have hope.”
So, where's the comfort? It's all over the Scriptures, for there we read of Jesus' great love for us sinners. May the Holy Spirit continue to comfort us with the promises of the Scripture, the promises of life and salvation through the forgiveness of all of our sins. Amen.
The Lord's Blessing in Christ,
Collect for the Word
Blessed Lord, who hast caused all Holy Scriptures to be written for our learning, grant that we may in such wise hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them, that by patience and comfort of Thy holy Word we may embrace, and ever hold fast, the blessed hope of everlasting life, which Thou hast given us in our Savior Jesus Christ, who liveth and reigneth with Thee and the Holy Ghost, ever one God, world without end.
For Further Study about COMFORT... Isaiah 40:1-2; 2 Corinthians 1:3-7; St John 14:25-29
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