5 Verses on Biblical Formation
Values are the guardrails that keep a church on the path they are walking, however they define it. Values are also the gas in the tank that motivate a church’s forward motion on that path.
Some values are a ticket-to-ride. You have to have these values just to get on the train and go down the track. Biblically orthodox and faithful Christian churches all value the doctrine of the Apostles Creed, the ethics of the 10 commandments, and the life set out in the Lord’s Prayer. (Of course, across denominational and non-denominational lines they may articulate these values differently in many cases.)
Core values are unique. They give a church its particular fingerprint within the body of Christ, or within the church worldwide. Many churches have similar core values that align with their particular cultural expression of Christian faith. But values can also be unique expressions of a local body even when there is agreement on doctrine, ethics, and way of life.
At Word & Table, we have three core values:
Mercy & Justice
We get these values from the Bible even as they are a unique expression of who we are as a people.
Biblical Formation at first may seem like one of those ticket-to-ride values described above. While all Christian churches believe the Bible, not all churches value what we call biblical formation.
We value the Bible shaping us as a community. It can be described in three ways:
Constant exposure- All our gatherings have scripture playing a central role. Our worship service each week is based around four different Bible passages. The songs we sing have scripture in them as well as the prayers we pray. We read back and forth to one another. We put Bibles within arm’s reach in our rows of chairs.
Robust exposure- All of the Bible is important. We seek to give each part of Scripture its appropriate place. Each week in worship there is a reading from the Old Testament, the Psalms, the New Testament, and the Gospels. No book of the Bible is off limits because Jesus taught that all of the Bible points to him.
Community exposure- All of our people are being formed by the Bible - young and old, rich and poor, woman and man. We know that reading requires literacy, but not all people read or read well. So we memorize verses from the Bible and teach others to do the same. Many children have learned to read by following the finger of a mother or father across the words of a page. Singing scripture also forms us together.
Here are 5 verses from the Bible about Biblical Formation:
1. ISAIAH 55:10-11
“For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven
and do not return there but water the earth,
making it bring forth and sprout,
giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater,
so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth;
it shall not return to me empty,
but it shall accomplish that which I purpose,
and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it.
God doesn’t mess around. When he sets out to do something, it gets done. This is a beautiful picture of his work in creation, a poetic description of the results of the scientific water cycle. The land is watered, the grain grows, the food is made, and mankind is sustained. As God sustains us with water as our creator, so his word - especially the Word made flesh, Jesus Christ - sustains us as our redeemer.
2. LUKE 24:27, 44-45
And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself….Then he said to them, “These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you, that everything written about me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled.” Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures…
Do you want to know about Jesus? Then these verses point you toward the Old Testament to find out. Scripture forms us by teaching us about Jesus. Many places in the New Testament shed light on the Old Testament. They don’t erase the original meaning and replace it, but they show in a greater way how the whole story of the Bible points to Jesus. He is the ultimate prophet to whom Moses pointed, the ultimate king to whom David pointed, and the ultimate priest to whom Aaron pointed. Our understanding of the person and work of Christ is formed by how Christ taught his disciples to read the Old Testament.
3. JOHN 5:39-40
You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about me, yet you refuse to come to me that you may have life.
These two verses serve as a warning about how we are formed by the Bible. You can believe the Bible and you can even memorize the Bible, but if you don’t use the Bible correctly you can delude yourself thinking that you are something you are not. Jesus here was warning the Pharisees that though they regularly read and commented on the Scriptures they missed the centerpiece to which they point - life in Jesus Christ. Biblical formation is more than reading so much that you can win anytime you play Bible trivia in Sunday School. It is so much more. Biblical formation means that what we read drives us toward Jesus for life. We come to him in prayer, in repentance, and in faith receiving his love and forgiveness.
4. 2 PETER 3:16-17
And count the patience of our Lord as salvation, just as our beloved brother Paul also wrote to you according to the wisdom given him, as he does in all his letters when he speaks in them of these matters. There are some things in them that are hard to understand, which the ignorant and unstable twist to their own destruction, as they do the other Scriptures. You therefore, beloved, knowing this beforehand, take care that you are not carried away with the error of lawless people and lose your own stability.
Peter recognized what Paul wrote as scripture. He recognized the wisdom that had been given to Paul and that the Holy Spirit inspired the things Paul wrote as also he inspired the other scriptures. But note that even Peter finds Paul hard to understand at times! Just because this is the case, though, we are warned not to twist or ignore what is written. Biblical formation takes into account the Bible is not an easy document to read, but it is still an important document for us to read.
5. 2 TIMOTHY 3:16-17
All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.
The source of the Bible is not ultimately man. The source is God, who used men (and in some cases women) to inscripturate his words in order to reveal himself to us. Biblical formation acknowledges and submits to the many uses of scripture from teaching to training, from reproof to correction. Biblical formation means that you are looking to be complete like a house that was framed up and then walled in and then totally furnished. It means you are being equipped like a firefighter wearing his or her gear before rushing into the flames of a burning building
Biblical formation is more than just a phrase at Word & Table. It’s a value, one that makes us unique. In Psalm 119:15 the writer says that he will meditate. But his meditation is not the emptying kind of meditation that clears out the mind. This psalmist says that the object of his meditation is the scripture - God’s precepts and God’s ways described in his statutes and word. This kind of meditation happens when we put a constant, robust, and communal focus on the Bible.
What would that kind of community look like over time? What old problems could it solve? What new possibilities could it create? What troubles could it overcome?
Why not take a chance and be part of it yourself?