The Bible Is Not an Instruction Manual

This post is adapted from The Prodigal Church: A Gentle Manifesto Against the Status Quo by Jared C. Wilson.

Basic Instructions Before Leaving Earth

Ever heard the Bible explained that way? It’s a handy mnemonic device that certainly has some truth to it. But does it get at the heart of what the Bible really is? The way so many of us treat the Scriptures—as God’s “how to” book—doesn’t seem quite right when we carefully look at what its own pages say. And I fear that the way we use the Bible in this way actually accomplishes the opposite of what we intended.

If the Bible is not essentially an instruction manual for practical application, then, what is it? If it’s not mainly about what we need to do, what is it about? If it’s not about us, who is it about?

The Bible Is About Jesus

About Jesus? Well, duh,” you’re thinking right now. That goes without saying. And I agree. It has been going without saying. But we need to keep saying it. We don’t “go” without saying this. The Bible is about Jesus. Front to back, page to page, Genesis 1:1 to Revelation 22:21, the written Word of God is primarily and essentially about the saving revelation of the divine Word of God.

Jesus himself said so. In Luke 24, we see two of Jesus’ disciples walking on the road to Emmaus and discussing the report they’d gotten of Christ’s resurrection. Suddenly Jesus himself sidles up next to them. He asks them what they’re talking about. They don’t recognize him at first, so they explain that they are discussing the matter of Jesus, expressing their confusion about his having been given up to be crucified when all along they thought he was the one sent to redeem Israel. And they also weren’t sure what to make of this astounding claim about his resurrection. Then Jesus does something very interesting: “And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself” (Luke 24:27).

In 2 Corinthians 1:20, Paul tells us that all the biblical promises “find their Yes in him.” The book of Hebrews is a great sustained example of this truth, showing us how all that led up to Christ was preaching Christ from the shadows, as it were, even reminding us that the mighty acts of the great heroes of the Old Testament were not about themselves but about acting “by faith” in the promise of the Christ to come.

Indeed, everything the Bible teaches, whether theological or practical, and everywhere it teaches, whether historical or poetical or applicational or prophetic, is meant to draw us closer to Christ, seeing him with more clarity and loving him with more of our affections. The Bible is about Jesus.

The Primary Message of the Bible Is That the Work Is Already Done

One night on the way home from small group, I listened to the guy on the local Christian radio station give a 10-minute presentation of what he had learned in church the previous day. It all boiled down to an appeal to make Jesus, in his words, our “role model.” It was all very nice and inspirational.

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