Making the Bible “Relevant”

We often hear people talk about “making the Bible relevant.” It is so easy to begin looking at the passage for Sunday by asking how it applies to the people in my church. What practical application can I make? However, a quick, sometimes superficial, attempt to find the relevance of Scripture often encourages us to import our own ideas into the text and prevents us from listening to what it is actually saying. We do not need to make the Bible relevant—it is relevant—it needs to be heard and understood. We must grasp its consistency, grand story, and the over-all unity of its message (see Christian Faith in the Old Testament ). When we have truly comprehended the thrust of Scripture, we will not doubt the importance of its condemnation of sin, offer of redemption, and guidance for life.

There are many facets to the perennial relevance of Scripture. Yes, the Bible addresses the need of the human heart throughout the ages. Yes, the Holy Spirit is continually working through Scripture guiding the people of God. There is, however, one aspect of this continuing relevance that often eludes us. We know that the Bible finds its center in Christ. He fulfills the Old Testament. The New Testament bears witness to Him. We tend, however, to limit this Christ-centeredness to the Christ who lived on earth some two thousand years ago. However, the Christ who took on our humanity, lived an obedient life, offered Himself on the cross, and rose from the dead, is now seated at God’s right hand as our all-sufficient Savior! The Bible is relevant because it finds its fulfillment in and bears witness to an ever-contemporary reality.

This insight came to me through my study of (you guessed it!) the Book of Hebrews. Last September I had the privilege and honor of giving a lecture on this subject at the Henry Center for Theological Understanding, Trinity Evangelical Divinity School. If you are interested, I invite you to listen to “‘Do not Refuse the One Who is Speaking’ (Heb 12:25): Hebrews and Contemporary Preaching” at I cannot adequately express my appreciation to Dr. Tom McCall, Geoffrey Fulkerson, and many others who made my visit to the Henry Center and to TEDS very pleasant.

So much for mangoes, what about Melchizedek. Melchizedek is that guy who appears to Abraham in Genesis 14. In Psalm 110:4 God declares to the Messiah, “You are a priest forever after the order of Melchizedek.” The writer of the Book of Hebrews takes up the challenge of explaining who this Melchizedek is. After three years in Africa, Rosa and I moved to Richmond, Virginia, where I did a Th.M. and a Ph.D. in Biblical studies at Union Theological Seminary. I was looking for a thesis topic–or, actually, I was looking for an advisor. I decided that Professor Mathias Rissi would be the best advisor for me. So I asked him to suggest a topic for my Th.M. thesis. He suggested that I compare Melchizedek in Hebrews 7 with 11QMelchizedek, one of the Dead Sea Scrolls. And so was born an interest in Melchizedek and a love for the book of Hebrews that came to fruition in my doctoral dissertation–“The Melchizedek Christology of Hebrews 7:1-25.”