Tuesday, June 28, 2005

All the Words of God

When we read Holy Scripture, we have to make sure that we do not take a selective approach. Taking a passage out of context, or in isolation from other texts on the same subject, can easily lead to error and to the strange irony that one can use the infallible word of God to go astray.

For example, you may think that Christ abides in us only through faith after reading “that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith” (Ephesians 3:17). But Jesus Himself said, “He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood abides in Me and I in him” (John 6:56). You can’t hold one (honestly, that is) without holding the other as well, for it is all the word of God. Perhaps you think you have the secret to answered prayer when you see that Jesus has said: “If you ask anything in my name, I will do it” (John 14:14). Just think, whatever you want, simply tack “in Jesus’ name” at the end of your petition and it is yours! But notice that He also said: “If you abide in Me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you will, and it will be done for you” (John 15:7). Those are two very important conditions He gives, but the ultimate one is found in First John: “if we ask anything according to his will, He hears us” (5:14). So, abide in Him, let his words abide in you, and if what you ask is in keeping with his will, you will receive it. That is the teaching of Scripture.

A rather startling example of what I’m saying is found in the following texts: “Everyone who calls upon the name of the Lord will be saved” (Romans 10:13), and “Not everyone who says to Me, 'Lord, Lord,'” shall enter the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 7:21). This shows that the first text is incomplete without the second, and the Lord gives the reason why in the second half of the verse: “but only the one who does the will of my Father in heaven.” Calling on the name of the Lord must be coupled with doing his will, or it will be an empty prayer and certainly will not save you. This is one example (among many in the Scriptures) that shows how it is impossible to be saved by anything alone, not faith alone, not works alone. If St Paul says we are saved by believing in Christ, and Jesus says we are saved by doing the will of the Father, then we are saved by faith and by doing the will of the Father! Scripture must be taken as a whole, as a unity, for it ultimately derives from the same Source.

So, hear the words of the Lord—all of them! Call on the name of the Lord, but make sure you also do the will of the Father. Ask in Jesus’ name, but make sure you’re abiding in Him and asking according to his will. We will ultimately be judged not by our fidelity to the few texts of Scripture we happen to like, but “by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God” (Matthew 4:4).