The right interpretation
A bit of dogma that Christians accept: the Bible, Scripture, the sacred Word of God — these pages were man written, God inspired; from the heart and mind of God to the pen of His human writers, what God desires us to know about Himself, the plan for our salvation, to create faith in us, and how we are to thank and praise Him and get along with others while here on earth.
Since the pages of Scripture were written, through the time of the Reformation and continuing through today, people have been interpreting these words to discover God, to discover what God is truly saying and our purpose in Christ. In a study of the Reformation, one can consider Martin Luther and his contemporaries as visionaries that helped make the Scriptures known to us. But if the Law of God has ever been a mirror to show us our sinfulness, our fallen state before God, our need for a Savior and our reliance on God, we have missed one thing. We miss that while we try to interpret the Bible, all the while the Bible has been interpreting us, showing us who we are. The Law is more than the Ten Commandments, more than “Do this, don’t do that.” The Law is anything that reminds us that we have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God and deserve God’s wrath instead of His mercy.
No one today wants to hear this. Seekers, and even some Christians today want to feel good about themselves and who they are on their own. But the Law (falling short of the glory) is precisely what we must acknowledge. From the fall of Man, sinful humans have wanted more from God, more than God, even more gods. Man wants worship on his own terms, to mold God’s Word into our vision of morality, our keeping up with the culture. Man (before God’s saving grace) just thinks too much of himself.
So not only does the Law knock us off our pedestal, it speaks the truth. While we interpret God’s Word with our own knowledge as a foundation, the Bible interprets us from God’s foundation, for God is the author of the one and only authoritative truth. When the Bible interprets us, or exposes us for the imperfect, sinful creatures we are, we have been humbled to receive the rest of the story, the good news, the silver lining to this dark cloud called the Law. That silver lining is the Gospel of Jesus Christ, through whom God purposed our history, our faith and our salvation. We cannot interpret Scripture with the proper mindset; we certainly cannot save ourselves through our works and the Law.
God stepped in. Jesus became the sacrifice who took the wrath of God in our place over our sins and satisfied the Law. It is Jesus’ merits that are applied to us. Once the Scriptures interpret us and who we are, showing us our shortcomings, affirming to us that we do indeed need saving grace from the outside, then can we receive the benefits Jesus came to bring and interpret God’s Word in the proper light. Then we can know that we owe God nothing short of our humble thanks and praise.
Over the past year, this column has shown us the work of the Reformation. But Scripture shows us the work of grace God has done in us through Jesus Christ.
For more on the Reformation, visit our churches: St. Paul Lutheran Church in Fredonia, Trinity Lutheran Church in Silver Creek, Immanuel Lutheran Church in Gowanda.