DAN, MY LITTLE BROTHER (THREE AND A HALF YEARS YOUNGER), AND I used to enjoy wrestling each other in little boys’ play. Well, at least I enjoyed it; I have no idea what he thought about it. As we grew older we seldom saw each other, for Dan was off to academy while I was off to college. My summers were occupied at Wawona summer camp, while his were spent at jobs near home.
I came home one day, and to my surprise, Dan greeted me at the front door. This seemed like the perfect time for another friendly wrestling match. Did I have a surprise! In no time at all he hoisted me onto his shoulders and started carrying me around the house like a sack of potatoes. Firmly in his grip, there was nothing I could do except ask for mercy, which gentle Dan obligingly gave. My “little brother” had become a strapping teenager. (Now his mantra is “If you hit me and I find out about it, you’re going to be in trouble!”) I had grossly misunderstood and underestimated his power.
In the meantime, I was studying theology in college and at the university; training to think systematically and critically. Our task was to place the biblical text under the microscope, dissect it, attempt to understand its meaning, and determine its truth value, if any. The power of my scholarship was brought to bear to enlighten the text. The task was similar to a critical understanding of a Shakespearean text, or a concerto by Mozart. I was working with dead words on a page; it was my job to bring them to life. I hoped, under the power of my controlling hand, the magic would happen. If the task was handled appropriately, the genius of the text or concerto would occasionally be brought forth in a moment of inspiration. The power of my insight brought life to the text.
Had I misunderstood the power of the Bible? God’s Word, the Bible, was patiently waiting for me to see the light! I had come with the flashlight of my mind to illumine the text, yet it is Jesus Christ, the Word of God, who is the light of the world. David applies the same concept to God’s Word: “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light for my path” (Ps. 119:105).
What’s more, the power of God is conveyed to us through His Word when we read it with openness under the power of the Holy Spirit. The power of God’s Word was manifested in the creation of this world (Gen. 1; Ps. 33:6-9). It was manifested in the resurrection of Jesus Christ (1 Peter 1:3; Phil. 3:10, 11). It is displayed in the upholding of the universe (Heb. 1:3). It is made known in the power of the gospel that makes foolish the wisdom of the Greeks and the empiricism of the Jews (and my critical, systematic methods) (Rom. 1:16, 17; 1 Cor. 1; 2; 1 Thess. 1:4, 5).
The Reformers and Ellen White taught that when God’s Word, the Bible, is read with openness, it’s as if God Himself is in the room speaking to us. There is a transforming power in the Word of God. The Word of God is living and powerful (Heb. 4:12). It is through the Word of God that we may be born again (1 Peter 1:23) and receive a new heart (Eze. 36:26). John promises that the love of God is perfected in those who keep God’s Word (1 John 2:5). The Word of God gives us strength so that we can overcome the evil one (verses 14, 15). We become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world (2 Peter 1:4-10).
Wow! I had thought that the Bible became a partaker of my scholarly power! I was relying on my power rather than on the power of the Word of God. I was the loser. I had grossly misunderstood and underestimated the power of the Word of God.
E. Edward Zinke is senior advisor for the Adventist Review. This article was published on January 13, 2011.