Raymond E. Harris
Muscle Shoals, Alabama
Did you know that the Bible continues to be the world's best selling book? In countries where the sale of Bibles is banned, it is the most sought after book.
Yet, in America, where Bibles are readily available and where most everyone can read, the Bible may be the most abused and neglected book of all. Thousands of people from time to time will read a page here and a page there and then declare that the Bible is just too hard and beyond their understanding. We suggest the problem Res with the haphazard approach to the book and not with the book itself.
One could not read the first, middle and last chapter of any book and expect to learn a great deal. We would not think of approaching a book of history, mathematics or science in such a way. We all realize that our understanding of such matters depends upon our beginning at the beginning and progressing page by page.
Also, we must realize that the Bible is not one book but rather a collection of 66 books. Every serious. student of the Bible realizes that the Bible must be "rightly divided." It, in fact, contains three laws: (1) the Patriarchal - for all non-Jews from Adam till the death of Jesus. (2) The Mosaic - for all Jews from Moses till the death of Jesus. (3) The law of Christ - for all mankind from the death of Jesus till He comes again.
In Acts 8:30, the preacher Philip asked a man who was reading the book of Isaiah, "Understandest thou what thou readest?" In turn the man replied, "How can I, except some man should guide me?" Hence, this serious student of God's Word realized that a little guidance can be helpful.
Why Bible Study Is Important
Why is Bible study so important? Why do preachers and church leaders seem to stress it so much? Let's see if the Bible itself will not give us the answer.
In Romans 1:16, Paul said,". . .I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth." And in John 8:32, Jesus said:". . . ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free."
These two comments by Jesus and His great Apostle Paul should help us to see the essentiality of a knowledge of God's word. No one can be free from the awful consequences of sin until he knows the truth about who and what Jesus really is! No one can be saved from the consequences of his sins until and unless he obeys the Gospel of Christ.
The word Gospel means "Good News" and everyone needs to understand the good news of how Jesus died, was buried and resurrected that mankind might be saved (see 1 Cor. 15:1-4). In various Scriptures, those seeking salvation were told to: believe (in Jesus), repent (turn from their sins), confess (that Jesus is the Son of God) and be baptized (for the remission of sins).
Do you know where the verses are that teach the foregoing? If not and especially if you have never obeyed God's command you are in a most serious condition. In 2 Thessalonians 1:7-9, Paul explains that when Jesus returns He will take vengeance on them that ". . . know not God, and that obey not the Gospel. . . ."
The Word Will Save Your Soul
In James 1:21 the inspired man wrote: "Therefore putting aside all filthiness and all that remains of wickedness, in humility receive the word implanted, which is able to save your souls" (N.A.S.B.).
Please notice that one cannot be helped spiritually until he puts aside all filthiness and wickedness! God cannot and will not save those that will not quit their wickedness. However, if we are sincere, if we really want to please God and go to heaven, if we will turn from iniquity and humbly receive and submit to God's Word, we can be savedl Notice James says the word of God is able to save your souls."
But you say how? How can the word of God save me? We can all enjoy the remission of past sins and become the children of God by submitting to or obeying the Bible terms that God has revealed in the Scriptures.
We must realize that we are the sinners and that God is the one who has been sinned against. Therefore it is God who must set the terms of forgiveness. We can never expect to be redeemed on our own terms.
Rightly Dividing The Word
In 2 Timothy 2:15 the Apostle Paul instructs the younger preacher Timothy: "Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth."
Earlier I mentioned the essentiality of "rightly dividing" God's Word. Hence, the portion of the Bible commonly known as the Old Testament plus the books of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, contain laws to both Jews and non-Jews that are no longer in force and binding upon mankind.
Beginning with Acts 2 and continuing on through Revelation 22 we have that part of the Scriptures applicable to all mankind today. This is known as the Truth, the Gospel, the Will of Jesus. This is the part of the Scriptures that we must obey to become Christians and members of Christ's Church!
As Jesus contemplated the coming of His Gospel after His death, He said, "If ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed" (John 8:31).
As we consider 2 Timothy 2:15 further, we notice that we must "study" to be "approved unto God." As one studies God's Word and attains the approval of God by obeying that Word, he then becomes a "workman" of God. And we must study and be knowledgeable of God's Word in order to live, labor and love as God would have us. Otherwise the ignorance and disobedience of a professed Christian will result in shame, and the stigma of hypocrisy. Are you a Christian? Are you a workman for God? Can you rightly divide the word of Truth? Bible study is the answer!
Persevere in Bible Study
I want to emphasize the importance of continued Bible study on the part of Christians. The Scriptures make it clear that Christians must continue to study to maintain their spiritual health. In 1 Peter 2:2, Peter urges, "As newborn babes, desire the sincere milk of the word, that ye may grow thereby." Hence, we see that God's Word is likened unto food that develops and sustains the children of God. In Matthew 5:6, Jesus said, "Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled." And in Acts 20:32, the Apostle Paul exhorted the elders from the church at Ephesus, "And now brethren, I commend you to God, and to the word of his grace, which is able to build you up, and to give you an inheritance among all them which are sanctified."
Please notice that Paul appeals even to elders of the church. He reminds them that even the spiritual leaders of God's people need to continually be "built up." He links the word of God to continued spiritual up-building and to receiving the inheritance of eternal life.
So we see that: (1) The Gospel is the power of God unto salvation; (2) A study of God's Word will bring God's approval; (3) The truth can make us free; (4) Christians grow and are sustained by the Word; (5) Mature Christians continue to be built up by the Word; and (6) As Christians continue in the Word they steadfastly look forward to the inheritance that is in Christ Jesus.
Truly God's Word is the "Road Map" that leads through this life and on into an eternity with the sanctified.
Guardian of Truth XXX: 21, pp. 652-653