Keeping the Bible central in practice

Keeping the Bible central in practice

It’s Reformation Day! On this day in 1517, the monk Martin Luther nailed his 95 theses to the door of the church in Wittenburg. This started a movement that aimed to measure everything by the standard of Scripture. Instead of accepting all kinds of traditions and papal pronouncements, the practice of Christians was to be compared to what the Bible taught. As this was also the time in history when the printing press made books affordable, and the Bible became translated into all kinds of languages, many more people could read the Bible for themselves.

We need to realise the danger that although we are convicted of the importance of the Bible, it is so easy for traditions and practices to creep into our lives and push the Bible to the edges of our Christian experience. If the Bible is truly the word of God and infallible rule of faith and life, we must ensure that this is true in how we use it. Let’s consider three places where the Bible needs to be central but there is pressure for it to be less important.

The Bible must be the centre of our worship services

Each church has a way of organising its worship services. When I was part of a church plant many years ago, the planting committee wanted to do church differently and we thought through all the different elements of the service. After a few months, we ended up with a service that included songs, prayers, Bible readings, and a sermon. Radical, right? But even with a Biblical basis for all the different elements of our worship services, we can end up with less focus on the Bible than we should.

I was convicted some years ago when someone pointed out to me that liberal Anglican churches (who don’t hold the Bible to be infallible) actually have more Bible in their worship services than many evangelical churches (which do have a high view of the Bible). This was due to their continued use of the prayer book that is saturated in Bible passages and allusions. We need to read the Bible in church, ideally from both testaments to show the unity there. We need to measure songs against what the Bible teaches and eliminate songs that deviate from that (whether old hymns or newer songs). We need to have our prayers informed by Biblical examples and language. If we are not careful about this, over time, we can drift to a service that has Biblical elements but no depth and little Bible.

The Bible must be the centre of our preaching

Preaching needs to be engaging and interesting. You need to make sure you use relevant illustrations. You should use eye contact and not be too tied to your notes. You need to not be too short or too long. You need to watch your vocabulary and apply teaching points to a wide range of people. All of this is true and helpful. But none of it is the most important thing.

The centre of our preaching must be the Bible. Any listener must be able to see where we are getting our points from in the text in front of them. We must be very careful about wandering into speculation. In the end, people are not converted to trust in Jesus by our clever rhetoric, but by the Spirit working through the word of God. And, of course, if we believe that Jesus is the climax of the Bible, every sermon based on the Bible must also point to Jesus.

The Bible must be the centre of our devotional practices

Many well-meaning devotional guides have a short verse at the top and a long commentary on that verse underneath it. Study Bibles sometimes also have a third of a page of actual Bible text followed by two thirds of the page filled with comments about the text. Many Christians get a great deal of input from blogs and Christian books. All of these resources are great! Yet they are not the Bible.

There is no substitute for Christians knowing their Bibles. For all of our translations and resources, the Bible knowledge of many is very poor. We need to read slabs of the Bible and be familiar with its content. We need to read it and pray in response to what we read. We cannot allow other people, however competent, to do all the thinking for us. Read the Bible, think about it, and pray about it. This should be the core of our devotional life.


The Bible remains the word of God. It is useful for us in many ways (2 Tim 3:15). Let’s make sure we don’t unintentionally sideline the Bible for other good things. On Reformation Day, let’s remember to measure everything by Scripture alone.