By Matthew Allen
A recent quote from an acquaintance of mine was, “When I read the Bible I just do not understand what is going on.” He went further by saying, “I have a hard time seeing how the Bible is relevant for my family and me in today’s society.” I believe it would be safe to say that this could be a major reason why many do not read and study (i.e., seek to learn) from it. How have these predominant attitudes come about? Please consider:
Society at large in America during the late 20th century has turned away from the standards found within the inspired pages of God’s Word. Those who publicly acknowledge living by Bible standards are disregarded as “right wing extremists” or “religious fundamentalists.”
Feminists decry the Bible as being written for men by men. Homosexuals and their supporters argue that God is pleased with their immoral behavior. Scientists and “experts” of the day endeavor to explain away miracles of the Bible. Denominational creeds and teachers instruct the masses that the Bible is not understandable. Even in churches of Christ we are witnessing a movement away from the importance of Bible authority and the acceptance of all sort of creeds. Members of the Lord’s church were once known as “walking and talking Bibles.” Unfortunately this is no longer the case with many. The movement some congregations are facing only contributes to the religious confusion of the day instead of uniting people in the truth.
Despite all of these things, how important is Bible study to you? Certainly there are many trials and temptations that have a tendency to hinder us from study. However, these can be overcome if one wants to overcome them badly enough (1 Cor. 10:13). Is being affluent in knowledge of the Scriptures toward the top of your priorities? As Christians we are expected by God to be knowledgeable in the Word of God. For example, Paul told the Ephesian brethren, “Do not be unwise, but understand what the will of the Lord is” (Eph. 5:17). In 2 Timothy 2:15, Paul told Timothy to be diligent (study, OKJ) to present himself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the truth. We should strive just as much as the first century Christians did to find and know God’s will for mankind.
How can one understand the context as he is reading the Bible?
As mentioned earlier, a common problem of many is that they do not understand “what is going on” while reading Scripture. How may one deal with such a problem? Remember:
• The Bible should not be read as a novel or a fictitious short story for mere entertainment. We live in a world that is entertainment driven. From 24-hour television, concerts, sports events, to “worship services” that are purely and only entertainment,” Americans expect to be entertained in almost everything. The Bible is an instruction booklet on how to get our souls to heaven. It should be read and studied in a serious manner.
• Study a few verses or a chapter at a time and take notes. One of the greatest aids in my personal study has been to study in “small chunks.” High school teachers and college professors recommend that this is the most profitable way to study: be it for an accounting exam or part of God’s Word. Write down points you believe are relevant and other items of importance concerning the text. These could aid you in your study at a later time.
• Don’t be overwhelmed by the size of the Bible. Some open the front cover — begin at Genesis — read a chapter or two — and rationalize, there’s too much here — I’ll never know it all. Bible study involves time and a steadfast commitment. The more time that is invested the more knowledge will be gained. Bible study is a life long process. Unlike secular courses of study, the study of God’s word is unending during this life.
• Don’t be fooled by the popular thinking that to understand the Bible one has to go to “Bible school.” Many of our denominational friends believe and teach that creeds must be written to explain the Bible. Those who have attended years of schooling at a seminary (those who will be the “clergy”) then must explain it to the “laity.” This line of thinking is totally unknown in the Bible. The Bereans in Acts 17:11 had never been to a seminary. They were able to reach an understanding of Scripture. We read, “. . . they received the word with all readiness, and searched the Scriptures daily to find out whether these things were so.” Certainly we can see that they benefited from Bible study!
How is the Bible Relevant To Today’s World?
Christians have the responsibility to teach those around them the relevance of God’s Word to people living in the late twentieth century. How can we fulfill this responsibility? Those around us need to understand:
• The Bible contains information on how to be saved. What better argument for relevance than this? As long as mankind exists, there will be someone who will need to be saved. God’s plan of salvation is found only in the Bible! Jesus said, “No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws Him; and I will raise him up at the last day. It is written in the prophets, ‘And they shall all be taught by God.’ Therefore everyone who has heard and learned from the Father comes to Me.” Later in John 8:32 Jesus said, “You shall know the truth and the truth shall set you free” (John 17:17). That truth is found in the Bible.
• The Bible will help one become a better Christian. As stated earlier, the Bible is the set of instructions on getting one’s soul to heaven. Christians are to put away the things of the world and follow after the example of Christ. There is not a single page in the Bible that will not help one learn something to improve his life. Notice what Paul wrote to Timothy in 2 Timothy 3:16-17: “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.”
• The Bible will help the Christian bring others to Christ. As one engages in study of Scripture an awareness of the danger of a soul becoming lost to the fires of hell becomes of tremendous importance. This consciousness should motivate the Bible student to tell others about the Way. This is an expected duty of all Christians. Notice Peter’s words in 1 Peter 3:15: “Sanctify the Lord God in your hearts, and always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear.” Are you living up to this standard?
• The Bible will help one become prepared to stand before God on judgment. Hebrews 9:27 says, “It is appointed for men to die once, but after this, the judgment.” There will be a day of reckoning for mankind. All men will stand before God and give an account of their actions on earth (2 Cor. 5:9-10). If one applies the things studied in Scripture to his life he can be prepared for this great day. Titus 2:11-12 says, “The grace of God has appeared to all men, teaching us that denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly in the present age.” This is very relevant to today’s society and all future societies as well. Let us heed what we read!
The study of God’s word is of tremendous importance. It is a shame those in the majority of the religious world (even some in the Lord’s church) fail to understand this. Don’t let Satan fool you by drawing you away from its contents. Make it your first priority to know more about the word of God!