Reading through the Bible together

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

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The Apostle Paul speaks of a “cloud of witnesses” which are given as “examples” for our “admonition” (vs. 1, 11). What is amazing about the biblical record is that it records not only the triumphs, but also the failures, of God’s people throughout sacred history. For those who study the past this should bring a sense of humility.

Historians have a term for when this kind of honest study does not happen. It is called hagiography, the study of the lives of the saints. The term has come to mean the uncritical study of a person’s life. Movements often do this about their founder when they exalt him, or place a group of such leaders on a pedestal not recognizing their flaws. Yet the Bible is not a hagiography for this precise reason. In fact, Ellen White observes that the Bible record is factual and contains the stories of the successes as well as the failures of God’s people throughout biblical history, which is a compelling reason for the inspiration of Scripture (4T pp. 9-15).

Thus when we reflect upon sacred history it humbles us. “Therefore let him who thinks he stands take heed lest he falls” (vs. 12).  What is more is that the Bible gives us hope for our present lives: “No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it” (vs. 13).

The Apostle also revisits an earlier issue: food offered to idols. He cautions them not to be conscience for another (vs. 29). “Therefore,” Paul admonishes, “whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God” (vs. 31). To sum it all up: do your best, he advises, not to offend your fellow believers (vs. 32).

Michael W. Campbell, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor, Historical/Theological Studies
Adventist International Institute of Advanced Studies