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This topic is adapted from the Jefferson Bethke YouTube channel.

What’s the lens through which you view the Bible? Your answer to this question determines everything when it comes to your relationship with God, yourself, and the world.

False Narrative #1: The Bible Mainly as a “Sword”

One false narrative we can have about the Bible is that it is a primarily a weapon to be wielded against our enemies. While it’s true Hebrews 4:12 says the scripture is sharper than any two-edged sword and that Ephesian 6:17 says the sword of the spirit is the word of God, to say that the Bible’s primary use is therefore as a sword against your enemies is to take the metaphor too far.

It’s also true that Christians are called “soldiers” serving God (2 Timothy 2:3-4). Jefferson’s point is not that scripture doesn’t use these metaphors, but rather, are we allowing certain lenses or categories, rather than a broad reading of the Bible, define how we relate to God and others? The Bible talks about itself as a sword and calls us soldiers, but it also tells us that our enemies are not other people, but the evil spiritual powers of the world:

Ephesians 6:12 For we are not fighting against flesh-and-blood enemies, but against evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against mighty powers in this dark world, and against evil spirits in the heavenly places.

It’s easy to take a “combative” view of people and to make them, instead of the “mighty powers in this dark world,” our enemies.

[Related: Are You an American or a Christian First? (Students)]

False Narrative #2: The Bible Mainly as a “Rulebook”

The Bible has rules. Just look at the Ten Commandments (Exodus 20). God has principles, guidelines, and, yes, laws, for his people to follow. But to say that because the Bible has parts that contain rules and laws it is therefore “a rulebook” is to miss the point and to misrepresent the Bible, God, and the Christian life. The most important thing God wants to do is give us new hearts that will love and obey him and love and serve others.

Romans 2:29 No, a true Jew is one whose heart is right with God. And true circumcision is not merely obeying the letter of the law; rather, it is a change of heart produced by the Spirit. And a person with a changed heart seeks praise from God, not from people.

[External Resource: What is circumcision of the heart?]

And that doesn’t come through simply following a list of rules. It comes through faith in Jesus Christ.

False Narrative #3: The Bible Mainly as a “Roadmap to Life”

The Bible gives us many godly and true principles and teaches us how to live:

2 Timothy 3:16-17 All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives. It corrects us when we are wrong and teaches us to do what is right. God uses it to prepare and equip his people to do every good work.

But there are plenty of things it can’t directly tell us. It can’t tell us what exact job to take, what exact school to go to, or who exactly to marry. What it can do is help us determine the kind of job to take, the kind of education to pursue, and the kind of person to marry. It gives us guidance, but there are plenty of unique questions about each of our lives that it will never precisely answer – because it’s not designed to, and if we think it is, we will ultimately be disappointed. The Bible points us to the God who can provide us the answers we need.

The Bible Is a Story

If we see the Bible primarily as a story that contains rules, contains guidance, and contains the weapons we need to fight spiritual battles, then we can understand ourselves as characters within God’s grand story. As one of many characters in this story, each of us is significant, but we are not the main character: Jesus is. We can still be important and valuable without taking Jesus’s spotlight.

[Related Series: How to Read the Bible]

Our job is not to make the Bible something it isn’t. Our job is to put the spotlight on the Bible’s main character: Jesus Christ, and to follow his leading in all things.

Written content for this topic by Daniel Martin.

Discussion Questions:

  1. Watch the video together or invite someone to summarize the topic.
  2. What is your initial reaction to this video? Do you disagree with any of it? What jumped out at you?
  3. What would you say is your “lens” for viewing the Bible? Why is this your lense? Explain.
  4. In what ways is the Bible a sword while also not being mainly a sword?
  5. In what ways is the Bible a rulebook while also not being mainly a rulebook?
  6. In what ways is the Bible a roadmap while also not being mainly a roadmap?
  7. Why do you think it’s important that the Bible is mainly a story instead of a mainly a weapon, a rulebook, or a roadmap?
  8. You’re an important part of God’s story. In what ways have you seen this to be true? Are there times when you don’t feel this is true? Explain.
  9. What does it look like to give Jesus the spotlight in your life?
  10. Write a personal action step based on this conversation.

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