“I follow Jesus, not the Bible.” This is a popular saying of many modern day Christians. The idea of serious Bible study that involves some work is thought by many to be merely an intellectual exercise where the heart is disengaged. And to many modern day “spiritual people”, doctrine means nothing and “loving acts of service to the community” means everything.
So, there are some who claim to love and follow Jesus but the Bible isn’t as vital to them. They like certain aspects of the Bible as they pick and choose the verses that focus on love and forgiveness and acceptance and helping others. But to talk about what the doctrines of such things as the atoning work of Christ, justification, redemption, sanctification, the Church, the Trinity, the inspiration of Scripture, seems like dull and confusing jibber-jabber that avoids the real hands-on stuff of helping people experience the love of Christ.
To be fair, talking about such things without any application to how we live or to the work of spreading God’s kingdom would be missing the point and not honoring to God.
But the thing is, doctrine is important – hugely important. Our knowledge of Scripture is important because the real, historical Jesus who is our Savior, is known to us through the pages of Scripture. So to say, “I follow Jesus, not the Bible” opens the way to a Jesus-Mysticism or a Christian-mysticism. If we separate Jesus from the Bible, what Jesus do we follow? The Jesus of your imagination? The Jesus of popular culture (who is only about love and no truth and no judgment of sin)?
If I do not seriously study the Bible, I will end up making up “my own Jesus”. And guess what He will be concerned about? You guessed it. He will be obsessed with the same things that are important to me. Suddenly, “my Jesus” will be one who says the things I find so interesting, are the really important things. He will end up disliking the same things I dislike and liking the same things I like. I will fashion a Jesus who looks very much like me.
I realize Jesus and the Bible are not the same thing. But both are the very word of God. The Bible is the written word and Jesus is the living word. He is the living word we know about because of the truth of the written word. So guard against this idea of separating Jesus from the Bible.
The better way is to think is to say, “I follow the Jesus of the Bible”.