A year or so ago I had a minor revelation that changed how I understood much of the New Testament. It’s a small thing that dramatically shifts how we understand the priorities of Jesus and the apostles. Are you ready?
Somewhere along the way I began to replace every occurrence of the phrase “the word” with “the message.”
You see, every time I read the phrase ”the word,” my mind always pictured the Bible. So when I read that Jesus was “the Word” (John 1:1) I would always think Jesus is the Bible. This was really confusing and I’ve seen it cause some folks to deify the Scriptures.
But if I replace “the word” with “the message” I get something entirely different. Now when I read that Jesus is the word I understand He is God’s Message. He is what God would say in any circumstance. And this message became flesh and lived among us (John 1:14).
So when Luke writes in Acts 13:49 that “the word of the Lord was spreading throughout the whole region,” I know that Luke is talking about the spread of the Gospel and not the knowledge of Bible verses. In the same way, when Paul encourages the Thessalonians to pray that “the word of the Lord may speed ahead and be honored, as happened among you,” (2 Thessalonians 3:1), he’s asking them to pray that the message of the Gospel would be received powerfully.
All of this should shift the focus from accumulating Bible knowledge to actually being a part of knowing, embodying, and declaring God’s message that’s found so clearly in Jesus and the Gospel. This is why I’ve argued elsewhere that one of the minimum standards of discipleship is a functional knowledge of the Gospel.
What do you think? Would reading the Bible this way change how you understand what’s happening in the New Testament? And, is this approach dangerous in any way?
A church is not a program of events where spiritual things happen.
You cannot attend a church.
You may have been thinking about a church meeting.
A church is a group of people with names and faces.
You can know a church and be part of one.
A church is not a what, it’s a who.
We should be careful to not call things churches that are not churches.
It assigns a false significance to things that aren’t that important.
Unless the thing you’re describing is a people that Jesus bled and died to redeem, you’re probably not talking about a church.
I have this theory that different types of Christians like different sets of parables. Truly evangelical believers love the parables of Matthew 13. End time-focused believers love the parables of Matthew 24 and 25. The list can go on. I suppose you should expect this because each segment of Christians you meet are called by God to manifest a different aspect of Christ.
I have this other theory that a parable in Luke 14 is one of the forgotten parables of Jesus.
It’s sad to me though, because this parable gives one of the most practical instructions on how to manage yourself with humility in a gathering you’ve been invited to. (I think it’s important to note that I believe Jesus would teach something very different if He were teaching you how to host a gathering. Don’t apply Jesus’ lesson on being a guest to the idea of leading or hosting.) Over and over I see believers not put this wisdom into practice.
Below you’ll find the parable in it’s entirety. It’s better if you read it and apply it to your own life. But this time, read the parable as if Jesus meant you to apply this idea in any event you’ve been invited into. How would it change how you act?
And He began speaking a parable to the invited guests when He noticed how they had been picking out the places of honor at the table, saying to them,
When you are invited by someone to a wedding feast, do not take the place of honor, for someone more distinguished than you may have been invited by him,
and he who invited you both will come and say to you, ‘Give your place to this man,’ and then in disgrace you proceed to occupy the last place.
But when you are invited, go and recline at the last place, so that when the one who has invited you comes, he may say to you, ‘Friend, move up higher’; then you will have honor in the sight of all who are at the table with you.
For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.
Now that you’ve read the parable, where does it apply to your life? Are there other places (i.e. like when you’re hosting or leading) where this wisdom won’t work?