The Bible, Church, and Sanctifying Grace
Last night my class was discussing the premises of Dan Boone’s (President of Trevecca Nazarene University) book, A Charitable Discourse; Talking About the Things That Divide Us. One premise in particular dealt with the biblical understanding and use of the word authority, as in the authority of scripture.
Dan Boone writes, “The word ‘authority,’ as used in scripture, does not mean being right or wrong, winning an argument, or proving a point. ‘Authority’ in scripture has to do with God’s power to create, save, forgive, heal, and raise the dead.”
In other words, our Bibles should be used to save and heal, not beat down, judge, or force folks to agree with our opinions.
In a letter from Paul to his young protégé, Timothy, Paul describes the authority of scripture within the church;
All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work. 2 Timothy 3:16-17
Hold on to these thoughts for a moment.
We then spun into a short discussion on why God desires our attendance at weekly worship services where we worship Him and Him alone. Critics fairly ask, “Is the God of the Bible that egotistical or insecure that He demands the total obedience and worship of over 7 billion lives?”
Actually, no. The power and purpose of the body of Christ gathered (the weekly worship service) to worship God and God alone is revealed in a slightly different question, “What might it look like if everyone were free to worship something or someone else? Genesis 6:5 describes a culture without a weekly worship service worshipping God and God alone and without holy scriptures to guide them;
The LORD saw how great the wickedness of the human race had become on the earth, and that every inclination of the thoughts of the human heart was only evil all the time. Genesis 6:5
Northwest Nazarene theology professor Brett Petersen writes in Created to Worship that worshiping God and God alone is really a means of sanctifying grace. When we are reminded weekly that God loves us even when we fail spiritually and that if we continue to repent (turn away from worshiping ourselves and back to worshiping God) we actually move closer to being beautiful and loving human beings. This process of becoming fully human is called sanctification and it happens in the divine-human event known as the Christian communal worship service where God offers transformation and healing to help people become more fully what God created them to be and do.
Here’s my point. Last night a loving member of our church was able to gently speak words of rebuke and correction into my life because both of us are committed to regularly worshiping God and God alone and to being transformed and healed in the ensuing sanctification process. I have been and continued last night to address a part of this spiritual family as the “old people” as if that title was the sum total of their lives and contributions to Richland Nazarene. For this I am truly sorry. There is no excuse.
Now consider the alternative. Not being transformed by attending weekly worship services as a means of sanctifying grace and not allowing the authority of scripture to renew my mind. Over time, I would become blind to the use of mean words. Eventually my worship would shift from God to self. At that point everyone around me loses as I use them for my own glorification.
Now multiply that by 7 billion and reread Genesis 6:5. See you next Sunday!