What’s your favorite food? What’s your favorite movie? Your favorite novel? Or your favorite record album? These are some of the fun questions we ask, to get to know each other better, to see what interests we have in common, or simply to pass the time. Sometimes these interchanges are fun, and sometimes they can lead to arguments (“I can’t believe you like that!”). But they’re generally pretty harmless.
Here’s another question that is sometimes asked: what’s your favorite Bible verse? Chris Foley, bassist for the Christian punk rock band, Luxury, was asked that question by a Christian radio station interviewer. “He said Philippians 4:13 but felt sheepish about it after, that a single verse cheapened a faith he takes seriously.” I have no doubt that the question was well intentioned, and I think Foley is onto something.
Is the Bible a collection of verses that we are invited to rank in order of how much we like them, like books or songs or movies? Yes, I acknowledge that particular verses of the Bible may have been especially meaningful at specific times in your life, as Romans 1:17 was for Martin Luther—in his own words—“truly the gate to paradise”. Perhaps there was one specific verse that was instrumental in your conversion to Christ. And I certainly have neither intention nor desire to belittle that verse or that experience in any way. But the question still bothers me, for two reasons.
First, it asks me to judge what appeals to me most about the Word of God, and second, it is far too reductive of the breathtaking scope of God’s Word. A number of months ago, after we had considered Daniel 11 in our Growth Group, one of the group members e-mailed me about our discussion, and wrote this profound statement: “The Bible isn’t a magazine designed to entertain me; it’s God’s word designed to bring truth to my life.” (Thanks, Katelyn!) Yes; that’s it exactly. It’s not “which article did you enjoy most” but rather “what is God saying in each particular chapter”.
The more I read and study God’s Word, the more richness, depth, and scope I find in it. As the Westminster Larger Catechism states, “The Scriptures manifest themselves to be the Word of God, by the majesty and purity; by the consent of all the parts, and the scope of the whole, which is to give all glory to God; by their light and power to convince and convert sinners, to comfort and build up believers unto salvation . . .” (answer to question 4, partial). If asked which Bible verse is my favorite, I feel pretty much the way Chris Foley felt.
Now, I confess to a little hypocrisy here. I have said that Revelation 5 is perhaps my favorite chapter of the Bible, and the book of Psalms is my favorite book. That’s not the same as picking a favorite verse, but it’s a difference of degree, not of kind.
Maybe I’m making too much of this. Perhaps I’m overreacting. But I really, really, want us to have a high view of the Bible, to treat it as it is, the very Word of God, to acknowledge that the Scriptures have come from Him “as directly as if God had been heard giving utterance to them” (John Calvin). Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, all Scripture is profitable for us (II Timothy 3:16). May we faithfully and expectantly search the Scriptures daily! And may God use them to comfort us in our afflictions, confront us in our sin, and confirm us in his great love for us.
Steve Hoogerhyde is an elder at GRC. If you ask him, he’ll answer the four questions in the first paragraph.