My father-in-law loves the Bible. He loves reading, discussing, and sharing the words of God. Whenever I have some crazy, far-out-there, seemingly unanswerable theological question, I go to him. His eyes light up as soon as I pose my query and he immediatly reaches for his Bible.
He pats the couch spot next to him, inviting me to come sit, so that we can read and discover together what the Lord has to say. I cherish these moments.
My father-in-law is also known to ask his hundreds (yes, hundreds) of disciples that if all of the Bibles in the world were burned up tomorrow–in one massive, heaping bonfire–how much, if any, of the scriptures would we be able to recite and remember?
Okay, so now that you’re all convicted and squirmy, allow me continue…
I’m pretty terrible at memorizing scripture, but don’t worry, this isn’t a post about how to build your scripture memorization muscle in 10 easy steps. Um, no.
Because, while the question my father-in-law poses should (and I mean, it does) inspire me to memorize more verses, what it really does it has me asking myself another question altogether:
Can you be a follower of Jesus Christ without the Bible?
Let’s imagine (in horror) for a moment that all of the Bibles on the planet really were burned. No more. Gone. Poof.
Would we, as the church, still be able to proclaim, preach, and preserve the Gospel of Jesus Christ? You know, Bible-less…?
My husband and I have talked about this idea quite a few times because, so often, we see believers exalt the Bible to that of an idol. They worship at the altar of the New Testament or the New American Standard. They says things like “If ____ isn’t in the Bible, then forget it,” or they begin everything with “Well, God’s word tells us…”
A while back, I wrote a post that asked the question: What is the Most Important Type of Church? Is it the church that focuses on Jesus, or the Bible, or the Spirit? The answers were varying, but it did cause many people to comment and state that they believe we cannot actually be followers of Jesus without the Bible itself (when reposted elsewhere, to be clear).
But, I ask, how can that be? If the Acts church only had portions of the Old Testament as we know it, and none of the New Testament, how is it then that they were able to add thousands to their numbers while preaching one thing only: Jesus Christ.
They had no book of Ephesians or 1 Corinthians. No letter of exhortation from Paul or practical admonishment from James. It was just them, gathering in the name of Christ, loving God and one another, breaking bread, selling their possessions, living in unity.
More than that, the early church couldn’t have known that generations later there would be a new “Bible” as it were. They weren’t necessarily counting on a New Testament to be the message delivered to those yet to come.
No, there was only one plan for spreading the Good News of Jesus: His Church. The very people of God. Within the church, God gave man one primary vehicle to convert, train, and multiply those within the church, and that means is through discipleship.
Oh, and let us not forget that the Holy Spirit alone–God coming to take residence in us–also marked the beginning of the church. When I consider these three things–the church as a whole, discipleship, and the Spirit–I can say with total confidence that we do not need the Bible in order to chase after Christ.
Of course, that is not to say that I am not thankful for scripture, because I am. My life has been transformed by the words of God, but not only by the words of God. Scripture, while active and living, has not been the only way I receive revelation or grow in the faith. We love a multi-faceted, infinite God. He can certainly teach us and guide us through various means, scripture being merely one of them.