Under the rule of…
We all have someone, or something, we look to for guidance: our authority. As Christians we say that Jesus is Lord
- What does it mean to live ‘under the rule of Christ?’
- How does the Lordship of Christ workout in our lives and local Baptist churches?
The Declaration of Principle says:
‘That our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ, God manifest in the flesh, is the sole and absolute authority in all matters relating to faith and practice, as revealed in the Holy Scriptures, and that each Church has liberty, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, to interpret and administer His laws.’
‘Our final authority is a person: Jesus Christ. It is not a book, nor a creed, nor even a basis of faith – but a person in whom God expresses himself fully’
This is in contrast to some other denominations: the Pentecostals and the Evangelical Alliance, who state that their final authority is the written word, the bible.
Read: Col 1:15-20
- What do we think it means to have Jesus as the head of the body, the church?
Remember Paul was writing to Christians who had little access to the written word, even what we call the Old Testament. But we have the blessing of easily available scriptures, either in book-form, or on electronic devices. The question is how often do we read the bible, and do we read it just to get answers, or to allow the word to seep deep into our souls?
Early Baptists took bible reading very seriously. Their services would have whole chapters read at a time, and then two or three people would preach on that chapter! They didn’t sing hymns but read or sang the Psalms.
Read: 2 Timothy 3:10-4:5
When Paul was writing to Timothy there wasn’t a New Testament!
- What do we think ‘all scripture is God breathed’? Does it mean that the bible writers just sat down and it all came out, like automatic handwriting, or was scripture God breathed, inspired, over a period of time as each writer struggled with what they saw God doing, and what was going on in the world?
- Do our understandings of scripture change over time?
John Robinson, the pastor to the Mayflower Pilgrims stated that ‘there is yet more light and truth to shine from God’s word’.
- How do we feel when someone interprets the bible differently from ourselves?
Early Baptists, and Anabaptists seek to read the scriptures ‘through the lens of Christ’?
- How does reading the life of Jesus help us to interpret the Old Testament and Paul’s writings?
‘Any reading of Scripture which claims to be Christocentric should enhance our love of God and neighbour and contribute to human flourishing in terms of justice, mercy and faithfulness. This brings ethics and praxis to the forefront of biblical interpretation.’
Often people have used the bible as ‘proof texts’, for instance Christian leaders in South Africa used the bible to prove that apartheid was God’s plan, and earlier Baptists, particularly the Southern Baptists in America, used the bible to argue for slavery. Helen Dare in her Whitley lecture of 2014 asked:
‘Do we read with a top-down approach, ‘where only certain interpretations are acceptable’? What do we do with those who interpret differently? Is there an ‘implicit expectation of uniformity where the dissenting or other voice is silenced?’
Helen Dare emphasises the importance of the gathered community reading and interpreting the word together, as church. However, how many services have we been to where the sermon is lengthy, the singing extended, and the reading of the scriptures reduced to a few verses by way of introduction to the sermon?
- What do we find helpful about reading the bible together as a church?
- What do we find unhelpful about it?
After thought: Baptists have traditionally shied away from reciting a creed or demanding that we all interpret the bible the same way. This can be a strength, although it can make for some difficult conversations. In Jewish thought the scriptures are like a multifaceted, very precious jewel; there is always something new to discover.