This blog post is part four of a four-part series adapted from transcripts preached during a revival at Forest Chapel Church of the Brethren.
As the people of God, we celebrate redemption. By that I mean we celebrate the way that we are repurchased, or reclaimed for the Kingdom of God.1 However, we must also celebrate and take caution that redemption is not a one-time act; it does not happen in a vacuum. In other words, our redemption comes in a moment, but also perpetually renews and restores in our lives. With this in mind, we explore the Bible as redemption.
Both the Old and New Testaments present that redemption comes from God alone. Stories such as the Exodus point us to the redemption God provides for God’s people; while New Testament passages such as 2 Corinthians 5 life the redemption delivered through Jesus. However, redemption is empowered by the Word of God. We must expand our understanding of redemption to encompass a multi-faceted theology of redemption- first redemption as a position through God (1 Corinthians 1:30); redemption as an act through Jesus (Ephesians 1:7), and redemption as a way of being in the world through the Bible (Ephesians 5:26). For this study, we will consider the third of these.
After all, redemption is not just about our standing in the scheme of life after Earth, but also about our status on this Earth as well. The redemption offered through Christ is about not just life eternal, but life abundant as Jesus himself taught in John 10:10. Jesus words about abundant life in the here and now should provide a substantial framework for the way we engage the Bible as God’s people.
In the earlier parts of this study, we spoke on the Bible informing our lives together as rule, the Bible calling us together as confession, and the Bible sending us out as proclamation; this last thought of the Bible as redemption is what transforms us into the people of God. After all, many a story can be told of people in the community of faith who live their lives without ever being transformed, and the question we must begin to ask is why. Ephesians 5:26 stands to offer us the consideration that it is the Word of God that renews us piece by piece and day by day- the Bible is our source of transformation for life today.
This need for continual renewal is why we, as Christ followers, should center around Scripture, because the Word of God is our most significant source of spiritual renovation. Consider passages such as Romans 12:1-2 that encourage this continual renewal for the cause of Christ- the Word of God must be at the center of this kind of action. As people of God, we gather around the Bible not just to read of the history of the faith, or to set rules and parameters for life, but to meet and empower the Spirit of God to rise up in us and make something new in the midst of our lives. Much like the dry bones coming to life at the Word of God spoken from Ezekiel’s lips, we too come to life in new ways as the Word of God is lifted in the center of our faith.
However, approaching the Bible in this way also challenges us to consider our theology of evangelism in new ways as well. We are powered to lift ideas such as “The Bible Transforms” alongside phrases such as “Jesus Saves”; if we detach the person of Christ from the illumination of Scripture the Gospel has lost its power in the here and now, and merely becomes about eternal destination, not ministry in the here and now.
As a pastor, I am often asked what should be our motivation for Bible Study. In most circumstances, I present the idea that it is through Jesus that we get into the Kingdom of God, but through the Scripture that the Kingdom of God arrives in us. By engaging with God’s word in the context of community, and in the context of individuals we are entering into a kind of renewal and perpetual engagement with the Kingdom of God.
In many ways, we, as Anabaptists, would do well to link the renewal of the water of the Word with the restoration we find in the baptismal waters. We do not see baptism as an end, but as a passage into a transformed way of being in the world. Our baptism signals to the community around us that we are entering into a process of sanctification and discipleship and that from that moment forward we want to live life in a new way, in the light of Jesus.
After all, a frequent confession for the people of God is that the Bible is a living text that reveals itself in new and profound ways each time we engage it. We would do well also to remember that we too are living and that each time we approach the Bible we are changing as well.2 Just as the Word of God is being used and revealed by the Spirit of God, we too are being transformed and shaped by the Spirit of Truth and the teachings of Jesus.
So as people and communities of faith may we each continue to be renewed by the Word of God. As we find our resting place in Christ, may we each remember that the Kingdom of God is on the move, and each time we enter the Word of God the Kingdom moves in us.3
Jon Prater is the pastor of Mt. Zion Church of the Brethren in Linville, Virginia where he has served since 2020. He is a current MDiv student at Bethany Theological Seminary and has an undergraduate degree in Biblical Theology from Liberty University. A former church planter, Jon is a public speaker and workshop leader on subjects including church planting and church vitality. He is husband to Jessica and father to twin sons Aiden and Elijah.
1 Burge and Hill, The Baker Illustrated Bible Commentary.
2 “THE WASHING OF THE WATER IN THE WORD.”
3 Crier, “What Does It Mean To Be In Christ?”
Image Credits: Our Blessed Rejoicing and Institute for Bible Reading