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  • Ben Lucas

The Promise of Scripture



Here in Chichester Diocese we’re celebrating ‘the Year of the New Testament’. As a part of which, I have delivered a talk to a couple of Deanery Synods on ‘the Promise of the New Testament’. I wanted, in preparing these talks, to draw on the inherited tradition we hold in the Church of England.


As I prepared, one source in particular stuck out to me. The very first homily in the first Book of Homilies, “A Fruitful Exhortation to the Reading and Knowledge of Holy Scripture.” The Homily, most likely written by Thomas Cranmer, covers a lot of ground but there are three things that are well worth while pulling out: Scripture is God’s word; Scripture is effective; and, Scripture is sufficient.


First, Cranmer says, “unto a Christian man, there can be nothing more necessary or profitable, than the knowledge of Holy Scripture; forasmuch as in it is contained God’s true word, setting forth his glory, and also man’s duty.”


Knowledge of Scripture is the most profitable thing anyone could pursue. More profitable than exercise. Than medicine. Than climate activism. Because it’s God’s true word. This doesn’t lessen the value of other things. Rather, it goes to show just how high a value should be set on knowledge of Scripture. For in it God has spoken. The one worth listening to.


It’s not human meditations. It isn’t a record of what certain people thought God might be doing in their lives. It’s “God’s true word.” The One who spoke the universe into being addressing us.


Second, “the words of Holy Scripture be called words of everlasting life: for they be God’s instrument, ordained for the same purpose. They have power to turn, through God’s promise; and they be effectual through God’s assistance: and being received in a faithful heart, they have ever an heavenly spiritual working in them.”


God is omnipotent, able to bring life in any way he chooses. But he has chosen. And he’s chosen to make Scripture his instrument for everlasting life. Just think about that. When Scripture is brought to bear on our hearts. When we bring Scripture to bear in someone’s life. We’re bringing not a bare word but a word that has been ordained of God for the purpose of bringing life.


When we proclaim the word of God, it, accompanied by the Spirit, is efficacious. It’s not our clever illustrations. Wonderful story telling. Or great sense of humour that has “power to turn”. But Scripture “through God’s promise.”


Third, “there is no truth nor doctrine, necessary for our justification and everlasting salvation, but that is, or may be, drawn out of that fountain and well of truth.”


It’s possible for us to believe that Scripture is God’s word. Even that it’s God’s ordained instrument of life. But we still might wonder whether it’s enough. It could still be good as far as it goes. But does it go far enough?


The answer is that Scripture is sufficient for “justification and everlasting salvation.” That is, Scripture is sufficient for bringing peace between man and God. It doesn’t need supplementing or updating. It doesn’t need apologising for. It needs proclaiming. It’s a word of life to be preached.


This is a small part of the doctrine of Scripture handed down in the generations in the Church of England. It’s the reason we say “This is the word of the Lord, Thanks be to God” after readings. It’s the reason we have a lectionary that aims to bring the full counsel of God’s word to our ears and hearts. It’s the reason we proclaim week by week the gospel of Jesus Christ.


Let us receive what’s been passed down to us and let us first seek knowledge of Scripture for ourselves. Then, having heard from God ourselves, let us proclaim “God’s true word” to the next generation. For it is God’s instrument for change.

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Benjamin Lucas trained at Wycliffe Hall, Oxford and has an MA in Theology with the University of Wales. He is married to Emily and they have three children. He is the Associate Vicar at All Saints' Lindfield.



Bibliograph

MacCulloch, Diarmaid, Thomas Cranmer: A Life (New Haven (Conn.): Yale university press, 1996)

Sermons, or Homilies: Appointed to Be Read in Churches, [Facs. of ed. publ.] London, Prayer-Book and Homily Soc., 1833 (Lewes: Berith, 1999)


Views expressed in blogs published by the Latimer Trust are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent the official position of the Latimer Trust.




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