Let the Author Lead
December 26, 2019 | by: Dale Thiele | 0 Comments
Posted in: Pastoral Encouragement
Occasionally, while reading our Bibles, we come across the author’s purpose statement, why he wrote what he wrote. Luke opens his gospel with one (1:4); the writer of Hebrews makes his explicit in the middle (8:1); and Paul often makes known why he wrote the letters he did (i.e. Rom. 15:24). One of the best known purpose statements comes at the end of John’s gospel: “these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name” (20:31).
When reading such a deep and involved book like the Bible, these purpose statements are highly useful. They are like directional signs on the highway of Bible reading. Let highlight three things to direct our attention to.
- We are not left guessing what the purpose of some particular portion of Scripture is. While we live an age where authorial intent is ignored, faithful reading of a text is still an effort to discover what the author desired to communicate. John wrote his gospel because he wants his readers to “believe that Jesus is the Christ.” As we read through his gospel, we can ask of each portion, “how does this help me believe that Jesus is the Christ?” Our cues for how to interpret and apply Scripture ought to come from the author. When we read our Bibles, we should not close the book at the end of the reading and ask, “Now what does this mean to me?” The first question is, “What did the author want me to understand in this text?”
- The authors of the Bible had real people in mind when they wrote. They probably were not thinking of you and me reading their portion in the 21st century. But they had specific people, living in specific circumstances, in mind while they wrote. John made choices while he wrote his gospel as he was writing. Why did he include only seven miracles of Jesus? Why did he leave out the Sermon on the Mount? These choices not only serve the purpose for why he wrote, but they also are taking into consideration his audience.
Why is this so important to you and me? It reminds us that the Bible is written for real people like us. Real people with real hardships, living in a real world with real threats. The Bible is not some abstract, philosophical treatise that addresses hypothetical situations. We can read our Bibles and identify with the original audience and hear the author’s intent as if he meant it directly for us.
- These purpose statements also point to the divine author’s purpose for Scripture. We believe that the Bible is not merely a human book, but that “men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit” (2 Pet. 1:21). Therefore, we can say God inspired John to write his gospel because God wants us to believe that Jesus is the Christ. Let that sink in for a moment. God wants us to believe in Jesus, of course. Consider the means, though, that God choose to bring us to believe in Jesus… he had men, like John and Paul and David, write. God choose a book to fulfill his grand plan of bringing many children to faith in Christ. Woe to us if we ignore the book, and in turn, God’s plan for our faith.