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"You shall not pass..."

“You shall not pass…” Such were the words of Gandolf in The Lord of the Rings trilogy.

Yet, how much greater than a fictional character telling us this truth is The Truth, God's Word which says:

Learn by us not to go beyond what is written… 1 Cor. 4:6b

This verse came to my attention yesterday and I was immediately shocked. In my heart I said, "Wait?!? There’s an actual verse that tells us not to go beyond what God has revealed in His Word? How did I miss this?"

I’ll just add this verse to a host of scriptures which I seemed to have missed all my adult Christian life.

Now, I grew up Pentecostal and went into the charismatic world of the New Apostolic Reformation (which is neither new, it’s old Gnosticism, apostolic as it’s leaders were NOT apostles having never see the Risen Lord, nor a reformation but a reiteration of old heresies) and often received “words from the lord” (I’ll use lower case because they weren’t from our LORD). As I began to reform I understood the charismatic gifts (tongues, prophecy, visions and dreams) were no longer authentic because everything we need for life and godliness is in the precious promises of God, i.e. His Written Word and His Revelation was complete and therefore, finished. As my husband Bobby says, “The Bible has a back cover…” When coming out of this Gnostic/prophecying world I ended up writing A Modern 95 which deals with much of their teachings and how they don’t line up with the Bible.

However, when I was Reformed (as in Dutch Reformed or Calvinist), I did not realize how much I was still disobeying this verse, “not to go beyond what is written” in 1 Cor. 4:6b. I was still peering into the secret things of God, not via prophecy but via man’s philosophical and logical arguments which had me, and many in the Presbyterian/Reformed camp, trying to figure God out, like He is one of us and not beyond us. This led to a host of doubts regarding whether I belonged to Christ and was forgiven of all my sins. In the Calvinist terms: was I among the elect.

(see Befuddled Much? Here: )

A Hymn to listen to

One of the reasons we embraced Lutheranism is because there is complete safety and comfort knowing that what God’s word says is what God means. One of the main reasons for this comfort is that what God’s Word actually means what He has said. There is no trying to figure God out, trying to peer into the hidden things of God, the secrets of God, as the Gnostics, Charismatics and many Calvinists attempt to do as opposed to Lutheran interpretation of the Scriptures. Lutherans receive the Word of God, accepting the tensions, and teach what it says without wrestling it so it will fit into a specific systematic theology. In fact, most theology textbooks within the Lutheran world are not called systematic theologies but rather Dogmatics. Lutherans simply state what God has said in His Word not forcing it into the puny and feeble systems of man.

Lutherans receive the Word of God and understand that, as my friend Sally reminds me, “God is a lot smarter than we are.” As Lutherans we live with the tensions that are in the Holy Scriptures and believe that God knows what He is doing and it will all work out in the end. We do not try to go beyond what Scripture plainly teaches but simply receive it as He has spoken it through His Written Word. In this, there is so much comfort because I no longer have to figure out God. His Word tells me plainly what I need to know for salvation and assurance.

In the formula of Concord Article 7, On the Holy Supper of Christ it states, “We believe, teach, and confess that the words of Christ’s testament are not to be understood in any other way then the way they read, according to the letter.[1]

Lutherans hold firmly to what the Scriptures teach without addendums or explanations that refer to some hidden meaning. The Bible gives us enough information for life and godliness than we do not need additional prophetic words, visions, dreams and tongues with their interpretations. Nor do Christians need to fit God into a theological box or some logical equation to which He is not subject. Rather, Lutherans read scripture as Scripture speaks and so should all believers.

The Lutheran assumptions in biblical interpretation are as follows:

I. God’s Word, because it is his Word, is without error. That means the Bible cannot lie or deceive and that God’s word is the only rule for faith in life.

II. Christ is the heart and center of God’s Word. This means the doctrine of justification by God’s grace through faith in Christ is the chief doctrine of the Scriptures. Also, Christian should carefully distinguish between Law & Gospel.

III. The Holy Spirit helps us to understand God’s Word. This means difficult passages of Scripture are to be interpreted by other, clearer passages. Also, as we read the Bible, in humility we derive the plain meaning of words from their literal sense, unless clearly directed otherwise by context. [2]

Now, when reading the Scriptures, I no longer need to hear the words of a fictitious character from a book says, “You shall not pass[3]” and instead I can simply quote the very Word of God so that I do not “go beyond what is written…” Instead of tring to look for some deeper meaning, I can simply read the words that God had written for us and interpret them to say what they mean and mean what they say. I have, in a small way, begun to learn how to read the Scriptures for what it plainly says. It is rather simple, actually you read them so the words that they say, “unless clearly directed otherwise by contexts[4]” mean what they say.

I remember explaining it to the ladies in the Tuesday Bible study at church that it often felt like I was doing some theological gymnastics when interpreting God’s Word. Instead of just accepting what his Word said, even if I didn’t comprehend it all, I would be trying to jump through hoops weren’t even there. So many times, when Reformed, I would try to take this square peg with clear-cut delineations and shove it into a round hole that was my Reformed interpretation box. It never did fit.

What comfort we can take that God has not made it complicated and His Word simply means what He says. Though too often still, by bad habit, I am tempted to go beyond the written Word, now I have a guard, this verse, which will help me “not go beyond what is written.” May we all learn to simply read God’s Word as He wrote it through the Prophets and Apostles, not daring to ask for more revelations nor trying to fit God into some neat little theological box.

[1]. William Hermann Theodore Dau, Concordia, 424.

[2]. general, ed., The Lutheran Difference: An Explanation & Comparison of Christian Beliefs (St. Louis, MO: Concordia Pub. House, 2010), 4.

[3]. Copyright Collection (Library of Congress), Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring (2001).

[4]. general, The Lutheran Difference.

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