You’ve probably heard the illustration of the anchor point as a way to explain Paul’s nautical allusion in Ephesians 4. In essence, Paul says that if the church does not mature in her unified commitment to sound doctrine (“the faith”) and knowledge of the Son of God, she will remain a child, “tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes” (Eph 4:14). If the church is like a ship, therefore, she will always be driven about by the cultural and philosophical elements around her, a danger to herself and to other ships, unless she is anchored.
The anchor point for the church is the Word of God. The Lord builds his church in the midst of contrary winds and turbulent swells of competing narratives, false philosophies, and unrighteous ideologies. But the Word of God, that ever-steady, solid ground, teaches us how “to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age” (Titus 2:12). So we must drop our anchor and hold fast to our only certainty.
However, simply dropping anchor is not a guarantee that the ship will remain fixed. If the anchor is not lodged well at the bottom of the water, the vessel will still drift, “dragging anchor,” with no holding power. Anchoring well is an essential skill. It includes knowing your vessel, what direction to point the bow, what type of seafloor is underneath, how to “set” the anchor, and how much rope to pay out to achieve the optimal scope.
A ship with a dragging anchor is a danger to itself and an annoyance to other ships in the harbor. It can run aground, or slam into another ship, and the dragging anchor can dislodge another ship’s anchor on the seafloor and cause a real tangle.
So, though we may rightly desire to anchor to the Scriptures, we need to be just as diligent in how we anchor.
We must drop anchor in the right text
We have to grab on to something specific within the “whole counsel of God.” Something tangible that genuinely addresses the current storm.
We are often drop anchor in much-loved, familiar texts. And these texts are truly secure anchor points! They assure us of God’s strength: “They shall mount up with wings like eagles” (Isa 40:31). They remind us of God’s wisdom: “My thoughts are not your thoughts … declares the Lord” (Isa 55:8–9). They promise God’s guidance: “He will make straight your paths” (Prov 3:6). They help us process trials: “Count it all joy” (James 1:2–4). They comfort us with the Lord’s presence: “And behold, I am with you always” (Matt 28:20).
But there is so much that God has revealed to us in his Word besides the Scripture that we already know so well. Are there specific passages and theological themes that we should be anchoring to right now that would help the church remain secure in these turbulent times?
We must make sure the anchor is set
We must dig in to that text where the anchor is dropped. Merely reading the verses and coming away with a general impression of what God is saying, without regard for the biblical context, without adequate reflection on what the author means, will lead to shallow interpretations and often misapplication of the text.
For example, how often have we been browsing graduation cards that use the promise of God’s future plan of salvation for Israel as a personal assurance that God is going to fulfill all our dreams! “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord … to give you a future and a hope” (Jer 29:11).
God did not reveal his holy Word so that we can turn what we like into frameable, self-help mottos. God’s word is eternal, and eternally relevant to give us a proper knowledge of Him, and the true wisdom that we need to think and live rightly, properly anchoring in the storm.
Over the next several weeks of posts, we at Theology in 3-D would like to share some of the texts that we have been anchoring to during the pandemic, the political chaos, and the social upheaval that seems to be our nation’s “new normal.” We trust that you will find them good examples of anchoring well!
Read the next post in this series, Anchoring to Christ.