I ran across phrases like “he really knows the Word” or “she loves the Word” a couple of times yesterday. This is really common language in Evangelical Christian circles that is used to speak well of someone, or describe someone who we think has a commendable Christian faith. We want to go to churches where the “Word is really preached”.
I too want to know the Scriptures, and I want to spend a lot of time studying and dialoguing with others about them. Hoewver, I think that when this kind of language is commonly used as a summary of someone’s faith, we are missing the point.
The point of the Scriptures is not for them to be known, but for them to direct us to the work of God and how to respond to that work. Even the Scriptures themselves speak of this in places like James 1:22-25 and 2 Timothy 3:16-17. Perhaps the best passage on this is 2 Timothy 2:15:
Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth. (TNIV)
Most of the time, this passage is seen as a call to rightly preach the Word. Ironically, this seems to be an “incorrect handling” of this passage. Paul is not urging Timothy to really preach the Word well, but to live it well. The Theological Dictionary of the New Testament (commonly called Kittel’s) describes what Paul is trying to say in this way:
In his conduct Timothy must “speak the word of truth aright,” i.e., follow it. When he puts his acts under the word of truth he is worthy before God and he need not be ashamed, 2 Tm. 2:15. He is superior to the false teachers, not because he can present the word better, nor because he offers it in a theologically legitimate form, but because he follows this word of truth aright in his own life, and thus confirms it.
May simply “knowing the Word” not be sufficient for any of us. May we correctly handle the word of truth in each and every moment. May we be known as those who walk in the way of Jesus.