The Unread Bible
The 21 March 1980 issue of Christianity Today contained an article entitled "Belief and the Bible: A Crisis of Authority" by Walter A. Elwell which contained some interesting statistics. When Americans were asked, "What is the nature of the Bible?", 42076 responded that the Bible is the Word of God and is never mistaken, 30076 said that the Bible is the Word of God but is sometimes mistaken, 23070 said that the Bible is a collection of ancient religious writings, and 5076 said they did not know. Though these statistics show an increase in the in-roads of modernism and other forms of infidelity, one might be somewhat encouraged that 42070 of the American people, despite all of the assaults of infidelity, still believe that the Bible is inerrant.
A somewhat more alarming statistic is that so few are reading their Bibles. "Only 11 percent read the Bible every day, compared to 10 percent who read it weekly and 7 percent monthly. Thirty-seven million adults never read the Bible" (Christianity Today, 21 December, 1979, p. 14). Consequently, when asked where they turn first when the need arose to test their own religious beliefs, Americans responded as follows: (1) The Bible: 40%; (2) Holy Spirit: 27%; (3) Church: 11%; (4) Other: 22%.
We are faced with a nation of people who outwardly revere the Bible but generally never read it. Many families purchase an expensively bound, large print edition of the Bible to place on the coffee table for everyone to see; few families are seeking to study their Bibles day-after day in order to learn its rich contents. The same thing which is happening to our society is also happening to Christians; many Christians revere the Bible as the word of God but go through their day-to-day lives without taking the time to read it. An unread, neglected Bible is no advantage to us; one might as well not have a Bible as .to have one and not read it.
Our great God in heaven expects us to study the word of God. Here are some pertinent Scriptures which show His attitude toward the study of His word.
Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God is one Lord: and thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thine heart; and with all thy soul, and with all thy might. And these words, which 1 command thee this day, shall be in thine heart: and thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children, and shalt talk of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up": And thou shalt bind them for a sign upon thine hand, they shall be as frontlets between thine eyes. And thou shalt write them upon the posts of thy house, and on thy gates (Deut. 6:4-9).
Blessed is the man that walketh not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor standeth in the way of sinners, nor sitteth in the seat of the scornful. But his delight is in the law of the Lord; and in his law doth he meditate day and night (Psa. 1:1-2).
The law of the Lord is perfect, converting the soul: the testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple. The statutes of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart: the commandment of the Lord is pure, enlightening the eyes. The fear of the Lord is clean, enduring for ever: the judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether. More to be desired are they than gold, yea, than much fine gold: sweeter also than honey and the honeycomb. Moreover by them is thy servant warned: and in keeping of them there is great reward (Psa. 19:7-I1).
Our New Testament Scriptures enjoin the study of God's word just as much on God's people.
And, ye fathers, provoke not your children to wrath: but bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord (Eph. 6:4).
Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth (2 Tim. 2:15).
These were more noble than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness of mind, and searched the scriptures daily, whether those things were so (Acts 17:11).
Those who claim to be the people of God must be characterized by an active program of Bible study, both at home and in their congregational capacity.
Knowledge Is Essential To True Religion
There are some, even among us, who would make salvation totally conditioned upon one's sincerity. They say that if a man sincerely does not know about Jesus he can nevertheless be saved. Yet, the Scriptures clearly teach that one must know the truth in order to be free from sin (Jn. 8:32). One can have no faith without a knowledge of God's word. Campbell wrote on this subject as follows:
Nothing is more demonstrable than that all true religion is founded upon the true knowledge of the true God and our Saviour Jesus Christ. The polar star of all our researches into this subject are the words of the Messiah: "It is eternal life to know thee the only true God, and Jesus the Messiah thy Apostle." If "without faith it be impossible to please God," as true it is, without knowledge there can be no faith. "How shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard - of whom they know nothing?" "By the knowledge of him shall my righteous servant justify many; for he shall bear their iniquities." "Now thanks be unto God who always causes us to triumph in Christ, and maketh manifest the savor of his knowledge by us in every place . . . ."
Now as this true knowledge of the true God and our Saviour Jesus Christ is in the Bible, and in the Bible alone, those ignorant of that book cannot possibly enjoy this knowledge; and, not possessing it, they cannot possess the benefits which it communicates. So that we are by an insuperable necessity constrained to deny the possibility of true faith and true religion without the knowledge of God and of Christ Jesus our Lord - without the knowledge and belief of the gospel as written in the New Covenant of our Lord and Saviour. From all which the reference is irresistible that all religion founded not upon right conceptions of God and of his Son, is delusion - rank delusion, and must leave the heart under the dominion of its own corruptions .
. . . . It is then demonstrated that knowledge, or illumination, in the being, perfections, and glory of God, in the person, mission, and character of the Messiah, is, in all cases, preliminary to true faith - to rational belief - to any acceptable worship: in one word, to true religion (Alexander Campbell, "Religious Excitment," Millennial Harbinger, 1840, pp. 166-167).
Knowledge of the word of God is essential for the personal salvation of every individual Christian and the continuance of the Lord's church! One is not saved because of his physical relationship to someone who was a Christian; he is saved because of his personal faith in the word of God and obedience to it. Consequently, we can easily perceive our need to continually teach the word of God to our children and to personally study it for ourselves.
What Can I Do?
We can easily see that spiritual ignorance permeates our society. Our religious neighbors know very little about the word of God; indeed, some of those who claim to be Christians know little about the word of God. What can we do?
1. We can turn off the television. The hours which we spend in front of our televisions are consuming the time we have to serve God and study His word. The moral filth which we are piping into our homes cannot edify us; it can only destroy our morals. Consequently, we need to exercise enough personal discipline to order our lives to find time to study God's word. To do that, we need to turn off the television.
2. We can teach our children the word of God. Gather your children around the kitchen table after supper and study God's word with them. Tell them about Daniel, Joseph, David, Paul, and other men of strong faith. Acquaint them with the history of Israel.
3. We can personally feed our own spirits. We can take some time out of every day to study the word of God for our own benefit. Each of us has a need to feed his spirit the inspired word of God. The person who does not feed his spirit the word of God will soon lose what he formerly had in growth in the knowledge of the revelation of God.
4. We can attempt to teach others the word of God. Each of us knows someone who is not a Christian. We can talk to him about his soul, salvation, judgment, and moral righteousness. We can offer to conduct a home Bible study with him. By so doing, we will be obeying the Great Commission ourselves.
The word of God is the only guide we have to spiritual life. If we want to direct our children and ourselves to heaven, we are simply going to have to devote some time to learning the content of God's word. Does eternal life mean enough to you to spend time learning the word of God?
Truth Magazine XXIV: 18, pp. 291-292