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What Is Biblical?

What makes something biblical?

The easiest answer may be that, “If something is found in the Bible, it’s biblical.” But that means polygamy, slavery, and genocide all qualify.

Another approach is to say that an idea or practice is biblical if it is consistent with the values and nature of the Bible. That’s probably a more meaningful answer. But it comes with its own problems. How can we be sure that we’re thinking or acting in a way that expresses the heart and purposes of the Scripture?

So let’s see if we can get a vision for what it would take to be increasingly biblical while being careful to remember that we have not yet arrived.

To be biblical, we need to see the story behind the words.

Many of us know how important it is to interpret the words of the Bible in their own context. But it may be even more important to think about what a verse of the Bible contributes to the big story that, in turn, gives significance to every verse.

From Genesis to Revelation, the 66 books of the Bible are more than a collection of religious history, moral laws, proverbs, poetry, and predictions. Behind every word and phrase there is a great love story that gives coherence to the details of an inspired text.

This great unfolding drama moves from (1) the wonder of creation, to (2) the disaster of human rebellion, to (3) a heroic rescue, and then finally to (4) a future day of resurrection, accountability, and restoration.

Within this storyline, there is wonder, realism, rescue from our worst problems, and a hope that rests in the relationships we were made for.

To be biblical, we need to see the relationships behind the story.

From Moses to Jesus, the Bible tells the story of a Creator who eventually reveals Himself as a Son who wants us to know His Father, and a Father who wants us to know His Son. The Son goes on to say that, at heart, He is just like His Father; that His Father is just like Him.

The implications of this Father-Son relationship came into focus at the last Passover Supper Jesus had with His disciples. After overhearing His friends arguing among themselves about which of them was the greatest (Luke 22:24-26), Jesus got up from the table, took a bowl of water and a towel, and began to wash their feet (John 13:3-5). Then He asked, “Who is greater, he who sits at the table, or he who serves? Is it not he who sits at the table? Yet I am among you as the One who serves” (Luke 22:27 nkjv). By going to His knees to wash His disciples’ feet, He gave us a clear picture of how far He and His Father were willing to go to change our hearts and relationships.

To be biblical, we need to see the love behind the relationships.

On the same night in which Jesus overheard His disciples arguing among themselves, He washed their feet and then let them overhear Him talking to His Father.

Jesus’ disciples heard Him pray not only for them, but for all who would believe in Him through their testimony (John 17:20). They heard Him pray, “that they all may be one, as You, Father, are in Me, and I in You; that they also may be one in Us, that the world may believe that You sent Me” (17:21 nkjv).

Then Jesus asked His Father to enable those who believe in Him to live in such a way that others would see that the Father loves them too, just as the Father has loved His Son (17:23).

A few hours later, the Son of God gave us the ultimate example of how much He and His Father love us. He allowed Himself to be crucified between two thieves—for our sin, in our place.

Nowhere does the love of the Father come into clearer focus than in what the Son was willing to endure for us. Yet that is not the end of the story.

After Jesus’ resurrection and dramatic return to His Father, His disciples continued to learn what it meant to be true to the biblical story they were now living.

Even in Jesus’ absence, they found that they were not alone and began to discover for themselves what it meant to serve one another even as their Lord had served them. In the Spirit and power that their Teacher had promised, they showed a courage to love in ways that went far beyond anything that was natural to themselves. While remaining far from perfect, they developed a concern for others that had not been present on that night when they argued among themselves about who was the greatest.

Over two hundred years later, a church father by the name of Tertullian wrote about what he believed to be compelling evidence for the Christian faith. He referred to the words of non-Christians, who said of Jesus followers, “See how they love one another” (The Apology 3.7).

Father in heaven, forgive us for calling biblical anything that doesn’t reflect Your heart and story. Please help us today to care for others in a way that will enable them to see Your Son in us, and You in Him. —Mart De Haan

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