God's Word is our great heritage

by Irv Ahl (WordAlone board member, treasurer)

June 14, 2005

The attendees at the WordAlone convention in April heard several presentations that addressed the convention theme “The Authority of Scripture.” It is important and appropriate to focus on the Word and use it as a guide in our daily lives. My wife and I use different resources in our daily devotionals and often times we’ll share with each other messages that have touched us in a special way. Perhaps because the convention presentations were still ringing in our ears, there was a message in each of our daily devotional materials recently that struck a chord with us and we shared them with each other. As we contemplate the issues that are on the agenda of the upcoming Churchwide Assembly in August, in Orlando, Fla., it seems worthwhile to share some of the thoughts expressed by the writers of those daily devotional messages.

The bible verses selected for the messages were from 2 Timothy.

Retired Pastor Nils C. (Chris) Hellevik comments on a verse in which Paul tells Timothy not to be ashamed of doing his work, including accurately stating the word of truth. He writes in the April May June edition of “Christ in Our Home” for May 18, that some say society is in a post-modern age, in which no authority outside of self is acknowledged. He says some of his readers may have been in Bible studies where they have talked about what a verse says to them personally. Hellevik suggests that in the post-modern era, a pastor discussing the original, historical circumstances of the passage might be told that was his explanation or his opinion.

Based on “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable” (3:16), J. David Branon writes in “Our Daily Bread”: “The Bible, God’s written Word, changes lives. Its message of salvation makes the most profound change, of course, but Scripture can also change the way we treat others. It can provide a firm foundation for society with its clear teachings on institutions such as marriage, family, and the church.

“But what happens when what the Bible clearly says—is rejected? Those who reject its teachings try to change the Word.

“Two Greek words can help explain this: eisegesis and exegesis. Eisegesis is the process of reading into a passage something that is not there—inserting a meaning that flows from a personal agenda. By contrast, exegesis means drawing from the passage the clearly intended meaning, using context, other Scripture passages on the same topic and legitimate tools of understanding such as Bible commentaries.

“Instead of trying to change God’s Word to fit our own ideas, let’s allow the Word to change us. As we read His Word and obey it, the Holy Spirit will transform us into the kind of people God wants us to be.” [This quote, from May 24, is used by permission of Our Daily Bread, RBC Ministries, Grand Rapids, Mich.]

And let me reiterate what the author said, “Instead of trying to change God’s Word to fit our own ideas, let’s allow the Word to change us.” When first read, that statement is disarmingly simple, but when one reflects on it, it speaks to problems that appear to be prevalent in the ELCA today. The ELCA leaders are being so free in their interpretations and are straying from the authenticity and authority of the Scriptures. I pray that the presence of the Holy Spirit will be felt and the Churchwide Assembly delegates and leaders will be guided by listening and adhering to the Word as they discuss and vote on the numerous agenda issues.