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Test 2

“Now the serpent was the most cunning of all the wild animals that the LORD God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God really say, ‘You can’t eat from any tree in the garden’?... No! You will certainly not die,” the serpent said to the woman. “In fact, God knows that when you eat it your eyes will be opened and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” (Genesis 3:1, 4-5 CSB)

“Did God really say?” This question asked by the serpent in the garden defines the divide between the Church and her post-Christian foils. Writers such as Adam Hamilton believe that we should judge scripture. He maintains that some scriptures were valid in a particular time but are no longer and other scriptures were never the heart, character, or will of God. This is not a new idea. At the beginning of my ministry the Jesus Seminar began judging the red letters of the Gospels—those words that came from Jesus own mouth. Each scholar was to assign a bead for the judgement of whether Jesus said it or not. Red for a saying of Jesus, pink if probably a saying of Jesus, grey for a saying not of Jesus but likely close to His own, and black for sayings definitely not made by Jesus. Unsurprisingly, scripture was judged by the participants’ particular worldviews and even a majority of the scholars who originally participated came to recognize just how ridiculous the scheme really was.

From the garden onward, the temptation is to exchange truth for a lie, to believe that we can edit God in a way that makes Him in our image. In this way, we use scripture as proof-texting our own beliefs without allowing it to change us. This obfuscation of scripture has the same source as in Genesis 3. “For some people, who were designated for this judgment long ago, have come in by stealth; they are ungodly, turning the grace of our God into sensuality and denying Jesus Christ, our only Master and Lord.” (Jude 4, CSB)

John Wesley rightly states, “In all cases, the Church is to be judged by the Scripture, not the Scripture by the Church.” Scripture is God’s revealed word: authoritative, foundational, and creative. Those who delight in it are “like a tree planted by streams of water…” (Psalm 1). “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work” (2 Timothy 3:16–17, NIV84).

John Wesley in his preface to the Standard Sermons counsels how to rightly approach scripture. It is advice which remains invaluable today:

1. I sit down alone: Only God is here. In his presence I open, I read his book.

2. Is there a doubt concerning the meaning of what I read? Does anything appear dark or intricate? I lift up my heart to the Father of Lights: - "Lord, is it not thy word, 'If any man lack wisdom, let him ask of God?'

3. Search after and consider parallel passages of Scripture, "comparing spiritual things with spiritual."

4. Meditate thereon with all the attention and earnestness of which my mind is capable.

5. Consult those who are experienced in the things of God; and then the writings whereby, being dead, they yet speak.

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