Is the Bible a love letter to me? The answer is, yes and no. The Bible contains God’s spoken word, written for all people at all times. There is a message to each of us, on every page of the Bible, and it is given for learning, conviction, correction and instruction in righteousness (2 Timothy 3:16). From Genesis to Revelation, the Bible reveals Jesus as our Creator and our Christ, our Redeemer and our Restorer, our Saviour and our Sanctifier, our High Priest and our Hope, our Comfort and our Coming King. Without the Bible, our understanding of who Jesus is, what He has done for us and who we are in Him would be limited. The Bible reveals the mercy, grace, and loving-kindness of God, our need for a Saviour, God’s great love for us, and absolutely everything we need to know to live our earthly lives.
The Bible truly is a message of God’s amazing love, but is it a love letter written TO us?
While the Bible is clearly written FOR us, it can’t be said that every verse and passage is written TO us. The Bible must be understood as a record of progressive revelation of the Person and works of our Triune God. Much of the Bible is a historical account of actual events. It tells of real people who lived and died and ancient cities and the lives of the people. The Bible records the spoken word of God given through humans and written down for all ages. The Bible reveals God’s purpose and plan and His will in all things.
While the Bible does contain letters, it must be remembered that these letters were written to specific people (i.e. select churches, or people groups) and the content of the letters must be understood first in the historical context. There can be differences in what the letter said to the original recipient and in how it applies to all others who read it. For example, if you wrote a letter to your daughter at college and spoke of your love for her and gave instructions specific to an event in her life (let’s say, the importance of studying for a French final), it would be foolish for your daughter’s roommate to read the letter and assume you wrote it to her. It would also be illogical for the roommate to think that you love her in the same way you love your daughter, and that you are instructing her to study for the French final (especially if she is taking Spanish). This scenario is, of course, silly. However, the roommate could rightfully read the letter and think of what a loving and caring person you are. She might know you as a friend and think of how kind you are. Or it might cause her to think of her own parents. She might also take the advice about studying and apply it to the importance of studying for her Spanish final. You get the idea. The letter was not written to your daughter’s roommate, but it could be beneficial for her when she reads it.
This illustration shows the importance of remembering to whom God’s words were originally spoken or written. Knowing where the people were at the time and what was going on in their world, and the world around them will help us more clearly understand God’s Word and develop a biblically sound and consistent hermeneutic.
Hermeneutics is the branch of theology that deals with the methods of interpreting Scripture to correctly understand God’s words. A historical/grammatical hermeneutic begins by considering the historical context and the grammatical communication of the time. Starting with this hermeneutic keeps the words in the proper context and avoids the error of making the words “say” something they do not.
Context, Context, Context
The Bible records many commands and promises that were given to Israel about their nation, their captivity, their relationship to God, etc. When those verses are taken out of context and applied to us in the age of the Holy Spirit, they can be made to say something that is not true for believers under the New Covenant. Old Testament commands and promises need to be understood by making a distinction about to whom, when, and under what circumstances, they were given. Then we can apply the principles in a way that is consistent with New Testament church doctrine.
An example of the necessity to understand historical/grammatical context would be God’s command not to eat shellfish (Leviticus 11:10). It was given to a specific people—the nation of Israel, at a specific time—following the setting up of the Tabernacle, prior to the nation leaving Sinai, and for a specific purpose. (The Bible is not clear why eating shellfish was prohibited. Many believe it was likely for health reasons.) Sadly, there are some today who neglect the historical context of the shellfish prohibition and wrongly apply it to Christians.
Back to our question. “Is the Bible a love letter from God to us?” I personally believe that thinking of the Bible in that way is dangerous because it can promote reading the Bible looking for myself. My recommendation is that Christians read the Bible looking for Jesus and to learn more about Him and to understand His ways—in the historical context. The better we know Jesus, the more we will love Him and the clearer the application of biblical principles will be in our lives. We should look for Jesus on every page of the Bible and we will find the amazing love He has for us.
The Bible really is not about us. It’s all about Jesus. When we keep our eyes focused on Him and when we look upward to “the Author and Finisher of our Faith” (Hebrews 12:2), we can rest in His love and be fueled by His Spirit. Then we can look outward empowered by Jesus to love and serve our neighbor.
The inward focus on self is dangerous. If we look inward, and then we look outward, we must ask, from where does the power to love and serve our neighbor come? Let us never make reading the Bible about us. The power to love and serve others must come from God. We don’t want to look inward. We always want to keep looking up….
Looking for that blessed hope,
and the glorious appearing of the great
God and our Saviour Jesus Christ.
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