As a youth, my only Bible was the King James, and the first 500 verses of Scripture I was challenged to memorize were from that translation. Every day I placed Scripture portions on my knee while milking, repeated my verses to the cows, and later recited them to my mother who tallied what I had memorized. I am amazed at how many of those verses I can still quote, having memorized them nearly 70 years ago.
I am thankful for the Bible’s impact on me during those formative years. My parents saw to it my siblings and I attended Sunday school, morning and evening worship, Wednesday night youth meetings held in various homes, and Hanging Rock Camp. To learn more about the Bible, I enrolled at Lincoln (Illinois) Christian College. I was thankful I would have four years before anyone expected me to stand before the church and preach a sermon.
Something amazing happened to me, however, as I absorbed the Lincoln culture as a freshman, and I began my first preaching ministry during March of that year. I recently celebrated my 60th year of preaching the gospel. I was raised on Christ-centered and Bible-based preaching and teaching, and for that I will be forever grateful.
I have always held a high view of the Scriptures. I believe the Bible is God’s written Word, “holy” and “able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.” It is “God-breathed and . . . useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work” (2 Timothy 3:15-17).
I also believe Christian preaching and teaching must be Christ-centered. Christ, the Living Word, is at the heart of God’s proclaimed Word, and the proclaimed Word finds its message about him preserved in the written Word. The gospel we proclaim is not primarily about legalistic rules and regulations; it is a proclamation about salvation in Christ. The basis of our faith is in a person, not a book.
“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God” (John 1:1).
“In the past God spoke to our ancestors through the prophets at many times and in various ways, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom also he made the universe” (Hebrews 1:1, 2).
When we preach the Word, we preach Christ—the Living Word.
What God wants us to know about Christ is found in the pages of the Bible, God’s written Word. The Bible is not a means in itself; it is God’s golden means to his golden end.
My favorite term for the Scriptures is the “Great Commission Bible.” I believe that to comprehend God’s chief purpose in giving us the Bible, we must read it with Great Commission eyes. The whole Bible is about God’s great plan to disciple the nations by baptizing every tribe, tongue, and people; teaching them to obey everything he has commanded; and enjoy his presence forever (see Matthew 28:19, 20).
Far too often, we have read the Bible’s important doctrinal, ethical, prophetic, and pastoral passages apart from their Great Commission context. God has called us, the Bible insists, to be part of a holy people in order to bless us, and in turn make us a blessing to all the people groups of the world among whom we are to declare his glory (see Genesis 12:1, 2).
The Bible has challenged me way beyond my comfort zone, but it has also deeply comforted me through the assurance of his presence and his promises. When our fourth son was born with Down syndrome 32 years ago, I remember coming home alone from the hospital early in the morning. I stood in the shower, water mingling with my tears, as I prayed and quoted King James Scriptures that flooded my mind: “The eternal God is thy refuge, and underneath are the everlasting arms” (Deuteronomy 33:27); “As thy days, so shall thy strength be” (Deuteronomy 33:25); “God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able” (1 Corinthians 10:13); “The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want” (Psalm 23:1); and “Him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out” (John 6:37).
Verses like these spoke (and still speak) to me with majestic and gentle comforting power. Just this morning I read in Proverbs 12:28, “The path of the godly leads to life. So why fear death?” (The Living Bible). That verse comforts and encourages me today.
For many years, I have read the entire Bible annually in my devotions. I cannot describe adequately how that has blessed me. My devotional Bible is a modern translation and has gone with me to 24 countries. I learn new things every time I read it.
Wayne E. Shaw is dean emeritus and adjunct professor at Lincoln (Illinois) Christian University.