Reading the Bible Is an Episode in Salvation History

Reading the Bible Is an Episode in Salvation History

John Webster writes:

. . . the Christian interpreter is 'reconciled to God, drawn into the fellowship of the saints and illumined by the Holy Spirit'. . . . the Christian interpreter is one who has been extracted from the darkness of sin by the judgement and mercy of God, and set in the sphere of the church, the chosen race, the royal priesthood, the holy nation which is what it is by virtue of the divine call out of darkness into light.

Christian interpretation of Holy Scripture is determined by this setting; the 'hermeneutical situation' (that is, the constitutive elements of the business of scriptural interpretation, God, text and readers, and the field of their interactions) is not an instance of something more basic but an episode in the history of salvation. At every point it is defined by the fact that it involves this God (the one who is light and who in Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit is luminously present), this text (Holy Scripture as the assistant to that presence), and therefore this reader (the faithful hearer of this God in and through this text).
("Biblical Theology and the Clarity of Scripture,"  378, italics and paragraphing mine)

Before dawn, over midmorning coffee, or at the dinner table with family—whenever you read the Bible, something miraculous is happening.

The presence of desire to hear God's word and think his thoughts testifies to the blood-bought grace by which he called you out of darkness. The mental energy and hungry soul that you bring to an open Bible is not separated from God's saving activity. In fact, the act of your reading is part of that saving activity as God continues his perfecting work (Philippians 1:6).

And it is not merely a piece of God's action in your personal life. It is another scene in God's whole redemptive and revelatory activity towards mankind. Your simple reading the Bible—your interpreting—is a step forward both in the degree of your transformation and in God's manifold wisdom being made known to the world.

Jonathan Parnell (@jonathanparnell) is a writer and content strategist at Desiring God. He lives in the Twin Cities with his wife, Melissa, and their four children, and is the co-author of How to Stay Christian in Seminary .