The early church father Jerome was commissioned in 382 to complete a definitive translation of the Old and New Testament into Latin, the language of the world at that time. Jerome declared that “Ignorance of the Scriptures is ignorance of Christ.” But with Latin literacy in decline as Rome’s influence abated, the Bible became inaccessible to everyday people. It would be a thousand years before John Wycliffe and Jan Hus would translate the Scriptures into their native tongues of English and Czech, for which both men would be named heretics, Hus burning for it.
Some two hundred years later Martin Luther and William Tyndale, friends and partners in the Reformation, would translate the Bible into German and English. Both men would be branded heretics and Tyndale, like Hus before him was burned at the stake. All over a book.
But to them, it wasn’t just A book. It was THE book. It was the book of life. It was the truth. It was the book about Christ. And the truth is that the same kind of opposition exists today. Distribution of Bibles is a punishable offense throughout the Muslim world. While the Christian church is growing exponentially in China, evangelization is still very guarded, and the passing on of Bible is still punished. All for a book. That’s right – there are still places where God’s Word is a risk.
Dear friends in Christ, God’s Word is still a risk. Every day we have the opportunity to encounter Christ present in His Word. We don’t risk imprisonment. But we risk all sorts of other things. The devil, the world and our sinful flesh all convince that there are other things that are more important than God’s Word. There is a risk that we allow things to become more important than God’s Word. Sports practiced, played and watched can easily come before God’s Word. Trips to the lake or trips to the city often trump time in God’s Word. Spending time with friends (no matter what your age) maybe seems more important than spending time in God’s Word. God’s Word is a risk. What will your friends think if you begin to study the Bible? What if I get embarrassed because I don’t know something? Or worst of all, what if God’s Word actually starts to change something in my life? That’s a risk.
God’s Word is still a risk for us today. Operating a Christian day school, a child development center, ministry among teenagers. These things all come at a risk. They’re not profitable. They’re not cost effective. They’re not good for the bottom line. How can we risk such things in our world today? We all live in a world of escalating liability and risk management. Apparently we don’t take risks, we manage them. But Christians are called to hold the Word of God sacred, even if that comes at a risk because the Scriptures make us wise unto salvation. Paul’s point to Timothy is that the most important aspect of the ministry of a Pastor, the most vital part of the life of a Christian congregation, or a Christian family is connecting people with God’s Word no matter what the risk.
Jerome had it right; ignorance of the Scripture is ignorance of Christ. But being a student of the Scripture is a life-long encounter with the risen Christ, His grace, His mercy, His forgiveness, His love. In a world of violence and bloodshed, of hatred and prejudice, sexual immorality and contempt for life in all its stages, the church exists to proclaim the Word, and to bring Christ to the nations through that Word. Nothing is more important in any age that preaching and teaching God’s Word in congregations, schools and homes. The reason we risk operating Lutheran schools is because of the Word. The reason we risk the things we do is so that word may be proclaimed and taught and that through the word young and old alike would be made unto salvation through faith in Christ. The reason for the Word is that people know Christ and that by knowing Christ they would have eternal life.
Fraternally in Christ,
President Lee Hagan