Updated: Apr 2, 2021
Romans 15: 4 (New King James Version)
For whatever things were written before were written for our learning, that we through the patience and comfort of the Scriptures might have hope.
Likely, we are familiar with this verse. This verse is often cited when teachers or preachers try to draw application points from the Old Testament. However, what stands out to me is the hope that Paul mentions.
Many church traditions emphasize the New Testament and the teachings of the New Testament, focusing less on the Old Testament. I understand these traditions and why many have done so. Many parts of the Old Testament, such as the sacrificial system, are not directly applicable to Christians today as they were to the Israelites. Some of the customs may seem foreign to modern readers. There may be many reasons why today's reader of the Bible places less emphasis on reading and studying the Old Testament.
However, as I was reading through Romans 15, I could not help but think that we have done a disservice to ourselves. What I mean is, with such an emphasis placed on the New Testament, have we diminished the importance of the Old Testament, the Hebrew Scriptures?
As I consider this question, you may be asking yourself why I am even talking about this. When the apostle Paul recorded these words, his reference to the Scriptures would have been to the Hebrew texts. What we, in our English Bibles today, refer to as the Old Testament. When Paul wrote the letter to the church in Rome, Christians would not have had a New Testament available to them as we do today.
I have read before that we often read the scripture for information.
I have read before that we often read the scripture for information. I wish I could remember where I read that, but the thought seems to be a pretty fair statement that has stuck with me. It's not to say this is the only way we read the Bible. Though, often when reading the Bible, I believe many are just looking for information or application that relate directly to us today. If we cannot make a direct application of the text, it's not seen as having many benefits.
At this point, I should clarify a bit. Reading the Bible for information and application is not wrong, nor is it a bad practice. I hope when we have questions, we will go to God's Word. The Bible does teach us many important principles for our lives today. It teaches us the truth of Christ. Through God's revealed word, we learn of God's character and nature and how we live today in a way that is pleasing to Him. Reading the Bible for information and wisdom, as Christians, is something we should be doing. However, if this is our only purpose for reading the Scriptures, we may be missing out on the story of God. His story is a story that instills hope.
This is what the apostle Paul was driving at, hope. Hope is so powerful and needed in our day. As we look around our society today, do we not see people, even Christians, who are crying out for and searching for hope? Someone, some cause, something in which to place their hope. This brings us back to what Paul is saying in Romans 15:4.
If we are reading the Bible for information only, we are not connecting to the story of God. It's just reading the Bible to stack bits and pieces of information or application one on top of the other. Often this approach will not lead to a very firm foundation. When blocks shift, such as difficulties, trials, and hardships, we suddenly find ourselves on unstable footing. When the blocks crumble to the ground, our hope crumbles with it. What we see is that the foundation we were standing on was not very firm. Information is not enough.
This is why I believe God's story is so important. When we read the Bible to connect to the Bible's story, we are connecting to the story of God.
This is why I believe God's story is so important. When we read the Bible to connect to the Bible's story, we are connecting to the story of God. That's very different than trying to connect my story with the Bible. Our story will intersect the Bible and the story of God. However, the Bible is God's story. It is the story of what God has done, what He is doing, and what He will do through His Son Jesus. Suddenly, the Bible's story becomes less about me and all about Him, as it should be.
Connecting to the story of God connects us to hope. When I allow God's story to intersect my life and not try to form God's story to my life, then I find a firm foundation. It is a foundation established on the story of God and His Son. When connecting my story to His story, hope is founded on the accomplishments of Christ and not how many blocks I stack one on top of the other.
Try reading the Bible today to connect to the story of God.
Scripture taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved.