Last week, I wrote about how it is a common misconception that the Bible is a series of do’s and don’ts. In reality, the Bible is primarily stories. The majority of the Old Testament comes to us in narrative form. The first five books of the New Testament comes to us in the form of stories as well. The Bible is far from being primarily a book of rules and laws. While there are many directives in scripture, the most important parts of the Bible come to us in the form of stories.
Why did God do this?
I think if most of us were to write our own “sacred text,” we would probably come up with various rules, regulations, directives for worship and sacred practices, and then maybe top the whole thing off with a set of Proverbs. Sure there are some really creative types in the world who could write poetry and make it all sound better than a plain set of rules, but at the heart it would be rules. God chooses to do something different, he uses stories, and not just parables and fables, but real life stories of people who rarely get it right.
I’m not an expert, but here’s why I believe God did this, because it reflects life. N. T. Wright writes, “The Bible, then, is designed to function through human beings, through the church, through people who, living still by the Spirit, have their life molded by this Spirit-inspired book.” God’s word is about real life and affects our daily lives. It’s not a series of abstract rules, but a guide for life. Wright describes this the function of scripture in the context of an uncompleted Shakespeare play.
Imagine that we lost the ending to one of Shakespeare’s great plays. How would we know the end? Wright suggests, “it is felt inappropriate to actually write a fifth act once and for all: it would freeze the play into one form and commit Shakespeare, as it were, to being responsible for work not in fact his own. Better, it might be felt, to give the key parts to highly trained, sensitive, and experienced Shakespearian actors, who would immerse themselves in the first four acts and in the language and culture of Shakespeare and his time, and who would then be told to work out a fifth act for themselves.”
This Bible then is the beginning of the human story that we are still living out under the leadership of our great director, producer, and author of life. God has given the pages of scripture as the beginning of the story and set the stage for us to continue the play that he has started. He’s still involved and intervening, but to a certain extent allows us to live out the continuing story of God’s people on earth with the Bible as his authoritative guide for continuing that story. The Bible then creates a “rule of life” under God’s authority instead of rules for life. Wright continues, “the creator and covenant God uses this book as his means of equipping and calling the church for (covenant) tasks.” It is up to us to soak in the story of scripture so that, “By soaking ourselves in scripture, in the power and strength and leading of the Spirit, in order that we may then speak freshly and with authority to the world of this same creator God.”
The challenge then is, do we know God’s word well enough to live out the story that began thousands of years ago?