V. How To Understand The Bible: Luther's Contribution

“The brothers immediately sent Paul and Silas away by night to Berea, and when they arrived they went into the Jewish synagogue. Now these Jews were more noble than those in Thessalonica; they received the word with all eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so.” – Acts 17:10-11

Martin Luther contributed many ideas that help us understand the Bible today. The first, is that when we read the Bible, we must keep Christ at the center of everything. This is especially true when reading the Old Testament. Do we have to sacrifice lambs on the altar today? No, Christ fulfilled the Old Testament once and for all on the Cross. Are all those weird dietary laws still valid today? No, Christ fulfilled them in His prefect life. The whole Old Testament is an expectation of the coming of Christ. Christ is seen everywhere. Christ is seen in Abraham’s sacrifice of Isaac, foreshadowing the Cross. Christ is seen in Moses leading God’s people out of slavery, foreshadowing our freedom from sin. Christ is seen in Joshua winning for God’s people the promised land, foreshadowing our eternal reward in heaven. Christ is seen in king David reigning over God’s people and bringing peace, foreshadowing Jesus as the King of Kings and Lord or Lords. When we read the Bible, we look for Christ and find Him everywhere.

The second contribution to understanding the Bible is Luther’s emphasis on Law and Gospel. God’s Word is divided between what God commands of His people and what God promises to His people. The Law commands human action and the Gospel promises God’s action. The Law kills and the Gospel makes alive. The Law is peculiar. It commands us to “be holy,” while showing us that we are not. The Law in the end shows us that we cannot merit God’s love by human actions. Instead, the Law guides us to Christ. He is the only certainty of salvation in the Gospel. The Gospel shows us God’s promise and His action, “neither do I condemn you.” The Gospel brings us life and hope.

Finally, Martin Luther kept the paradoxes of the Bible. “Para doxa” is Greek for beyond belief. A paradox is two “seemingly” contradictory statements that are both true at the same time. For example, Jesus is both God and man. We are both saint and sinner. God is one, yet three persons. Jesus’ death brings life. And there are many more. How can limited human reason explain the supernatural? How can we explain the Trinity? We can’t, but we keep the tension. When we read the Bible it is the paradox that gives the Bible breadth and depth. If you think about it, much of life is paradoxical in nature. Isn’t it true that we get when we give? Isn’t it true that the best things in life are free? Isn’t it true that the humble in life are exalted? Real knowledge is paradoxical in nature and the Bible is full of it.

God Bless,

Pastor Joel