THE BIBLE IS relevant when it is applied to man and his problems in exactly the same way that medicine is relevant when it is given to a sick patient. But medicine kept on the shelf will do the patient no good. And the wrong medicine, or a wrong dosage of the right one, might even kill him altogether! Doctors spend years in preparation so they can prescribe the correct medicine. Druggists invest a great deal of time learning to prepare what the doctors order. When both are done with their work, the patient must still take his medicine if he is to benefit from any of this effort and preparation.
The Scriptures must be studied. Their contents must be understood, then faithfully applied with care to the individual situation. This is how Paul addressed the young preacher Timothy: “Give diligence to present thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, handling aright the word of truth” (II Timothy 2:15, American Revised Version)
Some Scripture is designed for teaching. Other is intended for reproof, other for correction. Part of it is given for positive instruction in righteousness. Taken together, Scripture equips the spiritual physician for every case he might encounter (II Timothy 3:16,17). The medicine is well prepared. Wisdom is needed only in diagnosing
the malady and administering the remedy. If the Bible has ever appeared to be irrelevant, it is because someone either did not give the part of it that was needful or those who needed it did not receive it to their profit. The medicine was not irrelevant — the medicine man was inept.
It is wrong to fail to apply the message where needed. That means positive application at times and negative dosage at others. It is also wrong to change the message to suit the one who hears it. What kind of physician would substitute candy for medicine because the patient preferred its taste? Jesus never instructed anybody to make His teaching acceptable to the crowds. He did tell His followers to make it available to them.
Relevancy means that God’s grace has appeared, bringing salvation. In the process, it teaches sobriety, righteousness and godliness — now (Titus 2:11-15). This, is not just pie-in-the-sky-by-and-by. It is a transformed life here and now because of a transformed heart and mind and conscience (Romans 12:1, 2). The error of the social gospelers is not that they want something now but that they want everything now. Hope means that more is to come.
One inhibits true relevancy whenever he stops the preaching of the Word or changes it as it is preached. Neither fault excuses the other. We must preach it. And we must preach it straight and pure.
That is relevancy.