We are almost halfway through our study of 1 Corinthians. We have wrestled with challenging topics, like church discipline and sexual ethics. We have grappled with how to live as cruciform Christians, and not cultural Corinthians. All of us have immersed ourselves in the text of 1 Corinthians over the past 4 weeks. Some of you have shared with me that this is the first time you have dug deeply into one book of the Bible. This has caused me to reflect on how we approach Scripture in the Anglican tradition.
Every Sunday, we have four readings of Scripture: Old Testament, Psalm, New Testament, and Gospel. We treat these readings differently than any other text. After we read the Old and New Testaments, we say, “The Word of the Lord. Thanks be to God.” Before and after the Gospel reading, we say, “Glory to you, Lord Christ. Praise to you, Lord Christ.” We treat the text of the Bible as an integral part of our worship. We approach it not just as an informative text to help us through life, but as an authority before which we bow our whole lives. John Stott puts it like this: “Because we believe that Scripture is ‘God’s Word written’ (Anglican Article 20), it is unlike every other book. We therefore approach it as we approach no other book. We kneel – not because we worship the Bible but because we worship the God of the Bible and desire to humble ourselves before him…We ask God to break through our defenses, until we are ready to hear not the soothing echoes of our own cultural prejudice but the thunderclap of his Word.”
Anglicans affirm what Stott calls “the double authorship of Scripture.” The Bible is the word of men, written by doctors, fishermen, poets, historians, and rabbis. 1 Corinthians is a specific letter that was written by a specific person (Paul) to a specific community. So we must always analyze and scrutinize Scripture to understand the cultural context and purpose of every text in the Bible. But we never stop there. Because the Bible is also the Word of God. It is God’s Word written to the Church for all time and in all places. It is God’s Word for you. We must not only scrutinize the Scripture; we must allow the Scripture to scrutinize us.
As we continue in our study of 1 Corinthians, we will constantly be faced with a choice: Will we just learn lots of interesting things about this book of the Bible, or will we allow this text to be the Word of the Lord for us today? I encourage you to consider what you are saying each time you say, “The Word of the Lord” after a Scripture reading in our service. Is it the Word of the Lord for you?