I like to fix things. I have always enjoyed figuring out how something worked, finding what was broken and doing my best to repair it. I remember tearing apart a VCR when I was in High School. The tape wouldn’t eject after it was loaded. I found a little gear wheel that was broken. This is before the internet and all those resources so I went to the VCR repair store to find a part. They told me to just junk the whole thing and get a new one. So nice effort but I didn’t have all that I needed for success.
I’ve taken the same approach for so many things over the years. I have worked on my own cars. Most of the time I find a way to get it done but often I find I am missing the right tool. Since auto repair isn’t my job and I am pretty cheap, I would fashion some device to substitute for the needed tool. After hours and hours of doing it the wrong way I would break down and either buy or rent the right tool. The job is so much easier when you have the right tools.
Using the wrong tool for the job can actually end up costing you more money. You could damage something by using the wrong tool. Pliers for example are not a universal socket wrench. Butter knives aren’t screw drivers and scotch tape isn’t electrical tape. For about 6 months while I was in college I would start my VW Bug by sliding underneath and jumping across the solenoid with a screw driver. One time it was still in gear. That really got my attention. So tool misuse can definitely get you into trouble.
I think our human or carnal nature likes to fix things. It is part of our basic survival instinct. We feel the need to control a situation. When this nature surfaces in religion it is disastrous. It becomes a whole lot of self-effort and self-righteous fixing. We see a desperate situation in our flesh and start looking for tools to fix the problem. In all cases if we just trusted God our desire to fix a problem would go away. Our feeling of desperation evaporates and His power is the perfect tool in the hands of the perfect Creator. Often He has already addressed the issue. For example, Sin. He took care of that problem on the cross. When we are born again we are free from the power of Sin. Still we feel the need to “fix” people instead of agreeing in what God has already fixed. On top of that we reach for the wrong tool to a problem that doesn’t need fixing.
Check out this verse:
2 Cor 3:6 Who also hath made us able ministers of the new testament; not of the letter, but of the spirit: for the letter killeth, but the spirit giveth life. (KJV)
The Greek word translated as “letter” is “gramma.” This is where we get the English word grammar. Grammar: the set of rules that explain how words are used in a language; speech or writing judged by how well it follows the rules of grammar; a book that explains the grammar rules of a language.
Do you see it? The “rules” for… Here is more from 2 Cor 3:
2 Cor 3:7 Now if the ministry of death, carved in letters on stone, came with such glory that the Israelites could not gaze at Moses’ face because of its glory, which was being brought to an end, 8 will not the ministry of the Spirit have even more glory? 9 For if there was glory in the ministry of condemnation, the ministry of righteousness must far exceed it in glory. (ESV)
The ministry of death. This is the law carved on stone. The “rules” of the “rules” brings death. When we use the Bible to bring law into a new covenant relationship it brings death. There is better news under Grace. Here is the end of 2 Cor 3 in The Message translation:
2 Cor 16-18 Whenever, though, they turn to face God as Moses did, God removes the veil and there they are—face-to-face! They suddenly recognize that God is a living, personal presence, not a piece of chiseled stone. And when God is personally present, a living Spirit, that old, constricting legislation is recognized as obsolete. We’re free of it! All of us! Nothing between us and God, our faces shining with the brightness of his face. And so we are transfigured much like the Messiah, our lives gradually becoming brighter and more beautiful as God enters our lives and we become like him. (MSG)
“But wait I thought that we were instructed to use the Bible to correct people?”
Here are the verses that most point too:
2 Tim 3:15 and how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. 16 All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, 17 that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work. (ESV)
The word here for “writings” is gramma, same word as before but notice that it doesn’t “kill” it makes you wise. So what is the deal? I see it this way. The “rules” are wisdom when they point to the finished work of Jesus. The Bible should be used to show us Jesus. Paul says the same thing in Romans 10. Faith comes by hearing about Jesus. Wisdom is the knowledge of Jesus found in the scriptures.
The word for “Scripture” is graphe which is an alternate form of gramma. This is the inspired word. So how do I reconcile this with the letter that kills? “It appears that Paul is talking about the same thing, isn’t he?” “Isn’t he talking about the rules here, you know, all that sin management stuff?”
The answer is found in understanding how to use the right tool for the right job. Tool abuse can cause serious injury. When we use the Bible to reveal the nature of God, the living expression of God, the Logos of God…Jesus, it brings life. It brings salvation. It brings wisdom. In 2 Tim 3:16 the teaching, reproof, correction and training are about seeing His righteousness. It is about correcting those who are living from their own righteousness instead of the righteousness by faith through Jesus. When we use the Bible as “the rules” to show people their sin and need for self-correction we are instituting law, it is the letter that kills. We are driving people into self-effort, fallen from Grace (Gal 5:4). When we use the Bible to show God’s righteousness imparted to us because of the finished work of Jesus it is wisdom for salvation. It reveals the Grace of God. It reveals our identity as born again children of God. It releases the Grace of God as the power of right believing. Right believing will produce right behavior. We get to live His life. We get to live from righteousness. We rest in Him. His Grace empowers us for success. Check out what the Passion Translation says:
2 Tim 3: 15 Remember what you were taught from your childhood from the Holy Scrolls which can impart to you wisdom to experience everlasting life through the faith of Jesus, the Anointed One! 16 Every Scripture has been written by the Holy Spirit, the breath of God. It will empower you by its instruction and correction, giving you the strength to take the right direction and lead you deeper into the path of godliness. 17 Then you will be God’s servant, fully mature and perfectly prepared to fulfill any assignment God gives you. (Passion Translation)
It is always best to use the right tool for the right job. Tool abuse is bad practice. The Bible was never intended to be a tool of self correction or moral absolutes. That is the law and Jesus fulfilled it all. The Bible should be our love letter from God. It should be how we discover the nature and expression of God. It is how we fall in love with a God that loved us first. It is what the Holy Spirit uses to brag about Jesus. It points to the Living Expression of God in Christ Jesus. It is His words or letters for us about Him. Let’s stop using it for the wrong application.