Lent Disciple-lines #3: Scripture (Chris Topping)

Chris Topping

One of our spiritual disciplines for Lent – we have learned a little about prayer, a little about fasting and tonight a little about the Bible. A massive topic!

I want to challenge and encourage and inspire us tonight.

Some of what is said may not accord with your views – so if that is the case then please do voice your concerns. Some of the points we will look at raise more questions then we have time to answer in the thirty or so minutes we have together. Let me tell you something about my story to set a context for what we may want to discuss tonight.

I was brought up by my Dad and Mum to read the bible from a very early age. We would read a passage of scripture and pray every day at the breakfast table for as long as I can recall. We had Scripture Union bible reading notes for our age group. We were encouraged to read the Bible.

I have brought with me the Bible that I read every day – it was given to me in March 1982, just before I was 18! It has been with me through my adult life.

The Bible hasn’t changed over that time but my understanding of it and what it is has. I still read it and treasure what it says. But some of it is difficult. And some of it we make difficult if we are not careful to understand it. We are often shy of confessing the difficulties we have with the Bible. I came across this book in the autumn – now to be honest I haven’t read all of it yet! The Bible for Grown Ups – how can we read the Bible with our brains in gear? And to me that is the challenge.

As we spend a few minutes tonight I hope we can look briefly at

  1. What is it?
  2. Why read it?
  3. How to read it?

And we will look at some passages from the Bible – to see how we can read it, how it holds together and then hopefully share some practical steps to work out how we read it.

As we do so let me remind you what the Apostle Paul in his second letter to Timothy says -

“Continue in what you have learned and firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it and how from childhood you have known the sacred writings that are able to instruct you for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. All scripture is inspired by God and is useful for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training and for correction.”[1]


A collection of books – written at different times, for different reasons, by different people with different agendas.

There is history, allegory, poetry, prophecy, instruction. Some things about which there is no disagreement – Marcus Borg – Speaking Christian[2] – page 55.

There is a huge debate about how we should see the Bible. Is it the authoritative word of God for all time? Is it inspired by God? Is it the word of God?

  1. A Human Product

There is a view of the Bible that says it is the account of our spiritual ancestors and how they saw the world. The Bible includes their experiences and stories of God their understanding of life with God and how we should live but it is not God’s infallible, inerrant and absolute story.

  1. A Canon

The way in which the Bible was put together was the work of humans. By way of example the first list of books we know as the New Testament did not come into existence until 367CE.

What becomes Holy Scripture is because our ancestors in the faith declared that particular books were to be sacred.

  1. The Bible as the Word of God

To speak of the Bible as the Word of God means that it is a means of communing with God. It is a means by which the Spirit of God continues to speak to us.


What do you think? Why do we read it?

To be Christian means to live within a community which accepts that the Bible is the authoritative scripture. To be Christian involves a continuing conversation with the Bible as the foundation of Christianity. If that dialogue were to cease we cease to be Christians. [3]


God has given us minds and he wants us to use them to answer two basic questions:-

  1. What did the text mean to the original hearers bearing in mind the written words, the context, the literary form of the passage and the cultural setting?
  2. What then does this text mean for us today, probably in a very different setting?[4]

Food for Thought Part 1

Acts 10 v 9 ff; Leviticus 11 v 2 ff

I thought it would be interesting to look at these two passages to see if things change.

In our groups around the table read through the two passages and consider the questions.

We will spend a few minutes thinking about the questions and then come back to discuss where we get to.

Food For Thought Part 2

So has the world moved on from the Old Testament? Well let’s see what did Jesus think about the Old Testament? Let’s look at quite a famous passage from the Gospel.

There are a few questions but as we read the passage use your imagination to consider what it would have been like to be there.

We will spend a few minutes looking at this passage and then come back together.


Loads of options! KJV, NIV,NRSV,

Help to read it :-

  1. Study guides
  2. Apps
  3. Lectionaries


So over these three weeks we have learned about prayer, fasting and the Bible.

How will you read it? Colossians in Lent? Well it is short! And more importantly it is described as a manual for discipleship. [5]

It may be that as it has four chapters we could set aside an hour each week from now until Easter to a) pray; and

  1. b) read through Colossians a chapter at a time.

If you can fast a meal to do so then that would be good too. If we can agree a time of day which fits in on Thursday, Friday or Saturday then as we look at the scripture and pray we can be assured that others are doing so with us.

©Chris Topping

[1] 2 Tim 3 v 14,15

[2] Marcus Borg – Speaking Christian -SPCK

[3] Marcus Borg - ibid

[4] David Watson – Discipleship – Hodder

[5] Dallas Willard – The Divine Conspiracy – William Collins