Saturating ourselves in Scripture

Another interesting point made by Tim Keller in his first talk at the London Men’s Convention (see previous post) was in relation to Jesus’ use of Scripture. He quoted Acts 10:38, where Peter speaks of how:

…God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power; how he went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with him.

Dr Keller argued that this reference to the Spirit’s anointing and the Father’s being “with him” shows that Jesus, during his earthly ministry, had only the same spiritual resources available to him as we have available to us: in particular, the word of God and the work of the Holy Spirit.

Furthermore, Jesus’ quoting Scripture on the cross shows how “saturated in Scripture” he was, because it is when one is under duress that the “real you” emerges. For most of us that can be a painful or embarrassing situation. With Jesus, however, “if you stabbed him in the heart, he bled Scripture”. As Dr Keller continued, if Jesus needed to saturate himself in Scripture in order to face what he faced, how much more should we need to do so.

In a Q&A session later in the day, Dr Keller was asked how people should set about becoming “saturated in Scripture”. How should we read the Bible in order to have its words and message seep into our bones, as it were? He replied by recommending Martin Luther’s letter of advice to his barber, now known as “A Simple Way to Pray”. He summarised Luther’s method for meditating and praying on the Bible as “TACS”:

  • Teaching
  • Adoration
  • Confession
  • Supplication

Luther himself describes this process as follows:

I divide each commandment into four parts, thereby fashioning a garland of four strands. That is, I think of each commandment as, first, instruction, which is really what it is intended to be, and consider what the Lord God demands of me so earnestly. Second, I turn it into a thanksgiving; third, a confession; and fourth, a prayer.

Luther was referring to the Ten Commandments, but the same method can be used with any passage of Scripture. Tim Keller cited Luther’s treatment of the opening words of the Lord’s Prayer, starting with the first word: “Our”. Applying the outline:

  • Teaching: the word “our” teaches us that we are not to pray alone, but in fellowship with other Christians.
  • Adoration: we should thank and praise God for giving us the church.
  • Confession: we should confess our cold-heartedness and ingratitude towards the church, and our neglect of taking the opportunity to pray with our fellow believers.
  • Supplication: we should pray for a true faith that keeps us in the fellowship of the church forever.

Dr Keller said that this method had transformed the way in which he reads the Bible; I was very grateful for the reminder of this outline, and will be trying to use it in future.

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3 Responses to Saturating ourselves in Scripture

  1. Phil Walker says:

    Dr Keller argued that this reference to the Spirit’s anointing and the Father’s being “with him” shows that Jesus, during his earthly ministry, had only the same spiritual resources available to him as we have available to us: in particular, the word of God and the work of the Holy Spirit.

    Oh, yes. And also, if Christ’s obedience came from a simple appeal to his divinity, then it would be a nonsense to say that his obedience is imputed to us. The Heidelberg Catechism makes the point that we need a mediator who is both human and divine (qq. 15–18): Christ’s obedience stands on the “human” side of that necessity, and our security with it.

    On saturation with Scripture, I’m reminded of Spurgeon’s description of Bunyan, that if he were were cut, he would bleed bibline.

  2. I remember hearing Tim preach the gospel from one verse out of Ecclesiastes. Now you wouldn’t think that was the richest source for evangelism — but he found Christ there. It made me think of the Emmaus Road passage in Luke. It was as if Keller had been eavesdropping on Jesus’ own exposition …

  3. Pingback: Pragmatic and pastoral: Luther on prayer | Curlew River

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