What do we believe?
Are we to believe in words or in the truths behind the words, the reality behind the words?
It's a subtle distinction I admit; perhaps just a small point. The reason I discuss it at all is to clarify this all-too-common confusion. It goes like this for the words "saved" and "faith"...
|Them:||Are you saved?|
|Me:||Saved from what?|
|Them:||From your sins.|
|Me:||I hope so.|
|Them:||Jesus died to save you from your sins.|
|Me:||I accept the Nicene Creed if that's what you mean.I try to live a life pleasing to God, a life of virtue.|
|Them:||That's good, but do you have saving faith in Jesus?|
|Me:||I hope so.|
|Them:||If you were saved you would know it.|
|Me:||I look forward to spending eternity with Jesusif that's what you mean.|
|Them:||Yes, but do you have saving faithin Jesus?|
|Me:||Didn't I say that already?|
|Them:||Repeat after me: "I am saved by my faith in Jesus."|
|Me:||OK, "you are saved by your faith in Jesus."|
Even after this short dialog they don't get that I'm a Christian. They want me to recite the phrase, the formula, "I am saved by my faith in Jesus." I refuse to say it that way; perhaps because I'm stubborn; perhaps because I'm not superstitious and don't like to recite formulas, perhaps because I don't want to be manipulated and exploited by others, perhaps because I don't understand what they want me to do.
A few quick examples...
Regarding doctrine: Doctrine encapsulates the infallible truths of Christianity, and these are expressed in words, statements, and formulas. But these words of doctrine are not inspired, inerrant, and infallible as the Bible is. If we wish to limit our involvement with ideas and concepts to those which are infallibly true,we should therefore limit our Christian dialog to merely reciting scripture — we should not formulate any doctrine at all!(People mock me for suggesting such a thing.)
Regarding the Bible: Are the actual printed words of the Bible the Word of God? or the spoken sounds and syllables when the text is being read? or the images and thoughts that spring into our heads when we hear the words of the Bible? What exactly is the Word of God of the Bible?
Clearly it is not the ink on the pages of the Bible that is inspired, inerrant, and infallible but, rather, the meaning and interpretations, the reality behind the words, the word of Godbehind the words. The reason we feel the presence of the Holy Spirit when reciting the Bible is because our soul understands the words and interacts with God's Spirit who wrote the words. There is communication from God to us; God blesses our soul with his grace and truth and goodness, with the Word of God.
Some Bible verses on the topic...
But have renounced the hidden things of dishonesty, not walking in craftiness, nor handling the word of God deceitfully; but by manifestation of the truth commending ourselves to every man's conscience in the sight of God. (2 Corinthians 4:2)
We are to handle the scripture correctly, to understand it and apply it. The words are merely vehicles to transmit the truth of God.
For the hope which is laid up for you in heaven, whereof ye heard before in the word of the truth of the gospel. (Colossians 1:5)
Notice it is the message of the words that matter, the reality behind the words, the word of God.
For this cause also thank we God without ceasing, because, when ye received the word of God which ye heard of us, ye received it not as the word of men, but as it is in truth, the word of God, which effectually worketh also in you that believe. (1 Thessalonians 2:13)
They received the word of God spoken by the apostles. This same word of God was also written down in scripture. But notice the written-down version and the spoken version are equal.