For various reasons, we may be tempted to think the Bible is not practical unless we make it so. We may not mind if a preacher spends more time on Sunday giving advice for living instead of preaching the Word of God.
For some reason we are OK with less Bible and more life advice, even though it is horribly insulting, not just to God, but to ourselves. Apparently, we do not actually intend to learn how to read the Bible better but just want someone else to do that work for us, which is where we give in to the temptation to not read our Bibles at all.
If what we really think we need from the Bible is the “practical application” and can go without learning what that stuff in the Old Testament is about, why waste our time reading the Bible at all? Let the Bible go to the nerds.
When we avoid hearing God’s Word and studying its meaning, even the genealogies and weird parts in Leviticus, we are censoring our heavenly Father’s instruction.
When we leave those weird Bible parts to the nerds alone, we are implicitly asking for the Bible to remain in another language—the language of scholars and learned men and experts. Let them read the Bible. Let them read the text; I’ll just wait for the Cliff Notes.
Because of our stiff necks and idle hands, we become slaves to tyrannical nerds.
And that’s exactly the kind of situation which the Reformed churches escaped. This was a major issue during the Reformation, causing Martin Luther and others to insist on the priesthood of all believers.
What the 16th century German Reformer Martin Luther preached:
From the beginning, innumerable instances in history have proved the truth of this saying, “God resisteth the proud.” They show how he has always overthrown and destroyed the proud world and has cast down the haughty, scornful kings and lords.
The great king of Babylon, Nebuchadnezzar, was humbled when banished from his royal throne to the companionship of the beasts of the field and compelled to eat grass with them.
Again, remember how suddenly the great king Alexander was hurled down, when after the victory and good fortune God had given him, he began to grow proud, and wanted to be reverenced as a god?
Again, there was King Herod Agrippa.The proud, learned emperor Julian, a virulent mocker and persecutor of Christ, whom he had denied—how soon was he drowned in his own blood!
And since then, what has become of all the proud, haughty tyrants, who proposed to oppress and crush Christianity?
“It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.” This, however, is nothing else than with scorn and defiance to oppose his will, so that he, in turn, must set himself against man and must lift his hand.
Therefore, let everyone beware lest he boast and grow defiant in the presence of the divine majesty. Not only must he beware, that he may not awaken God’s anger, but that he may have grace and blessing in the things he ought to do.
For, if thou beginnest something in thine own power, and wisdom, and haughtiness, think not he will grant thee success and blessing to carry out thy purpose.
On the other hand, if thou humblest thyself, and beginnest aught in accordance with his will, in the fear of God and trusting in his grace, there is given thee the promise, “He giveth grace to the humble.”
So, then, thou shalt not only have favor with men, but success shall crown thine efforts. Thou shalt prove a useful man, both to God and to the world, and shalt complete and maintain thy work despite the resistance of the devil.
For where God’s grace is, there his blessing and protection must follow, and his servant cannot be overthrown or defeated. Though he be oppressed for a time, he shall finally come forth again and be exalted. So Peter concludes by saying:
“Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God, that he may exalt you in due time.”
Peter shows in these words what true humility is and whence it comes. The heart, through knowledge of its sin, becomes terrified in the presence of God’s anger and anxiously seeks grace.
Thus a humility is born, not merely external and before men, but of the heart and of God, from fear of God and knowledge of one’s own unworthiness and weakness.
He who fears God and “trembles at his word,” will surely defy or hector or boast against nobody. Yea, he will even manifest a gentle spirit toward his enemies. Therefore, he finds favor both with God and men.
Sermon edited with preface by Zach Parker, news editor at The Ouachita Citizen, and pastoral intern at Church of the Redeemer in West Monroe. The excerpt is from Martin Luther’s Epistle Sermons: Trinity Sunday to Advent, translated by John Nicholas Lenker.